A CHILDCARE operator hopes to create a farm-style centre but nearby residents fear it will have a negative effect on their rural lifestyle.
Wanneroo Council this month approved Atlantis Group’s revised plans for a centre on a special residential property between rural Mariginiup and suburban Banksia Grove.
The council rejected the original proposal for a centre that could accommodate up to 120 children and 21 staff last October because it was “not considered compatible with the surrounding residential and special rural land uses”.
Other reasons for refusal included the potential negative impact of increased noise and traffic on surrounding residents and removal of 20 trees.
Atlantis Group appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) and through mediation, revised its plans, reducing the scale by about 20 per cent to accommodate up to 92 children and 17 staff.
The number of parking bays was also reduced from 37 to 29.
Neighbours concerned about impacts of noise, traffic
The City received 13 submissions during public consultation for the revised plans, with 12 objecting to it and one in support.
The main issues were similar to objections raised for the original proposal, including its appropriateness in the special residential zone as well as traffic and noise impacts.
“The applicant through the submission of amended plans has, in administration’s view, suitably addressed the concerns raised,” a council report said.
Objections also referred to a caveat between landowners and the developer Landstart, but the report said the City was not party to that agreement and had no ability to enforce it.
“A childcare centre is a discretionary land use in the special residential zone, which makes it capable of approval,” it said.
Several people gave deputations before the May 7 council meeting, including Constance O’Brien who asked the council to “remain firm on their refusal”.
The entry to the childcare centre will be on Greenvale Place, which the Mariginiup resident said was a local access road for the Lake Adams equestrian estate.
“There’s normally movement of horses and children on this road,” she said.
Rural residents argued that the 5000sq m special residential lots were created as a buffer between the suburban and rural areas to protect amenity in the latter, and that a non-residential use was not appropriate.
Direct neighbour Lee-Anne Crisp said she bought the special residential property because it was spacious and “92 children playing next door to me is not low density”.
Another neighbour Karun Cowper said residents passionately cared about the lifestyle they were trying to maintain.
He said the childcare centre would have been more appropriate in the Banksia Grove commercial area.
Geoff Westlake gave a deputation against it as well, saying planning laws prevented businesses with more than four employees from operating on special residential land.
He said the type of child care permitted was a family day care where the operator lived on the property and ran it as a home business.
Population growth drives demand for childcare places
Banksia Grove resident Jaime Perry spoke in support of the childcare centre.
“There’s a shortage of child care centres in the suburb – my kids are on waitlists for multiple childcare centres,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a nightmare to try and get them to childcare centres that are miles away.
“Banksia Grove is a rapidly growing area; there are a lot of young families.
“(The centre) would ease a lot of pressure on parents like myself.”
Atlantis Group owner Bob Hindle said with more families moving into the area, an extra 1500 childcare places needed to be provided.
Mr Hindle said the City of Wanneroo also needed to add 2800 jobs each year to reach employment self-sufficiency targets.
Asked whether the business had looked at commercial sites nearby, he said they were suitable for “brick and concrete” centres but wouldn’t provide the outdoor play space the semi-rural block would.
Council approves revised childcare centre plans
Councillor Dot Newton, who moved the original alternative motion to refuse the childcare centre, moved the May 7 recommendation to approve revised plans.
Cr Newton said it was not an easy decision, but SAT could approve it if the council knocked it back again.
“Past experience has told me we should not go down that path as we have no certainty,” she said.
Several councillors raised concerns SAT could approve it without conditions and Cr Paul Miles said it could cost the City up to $100,000 in legal fees defending another refusal.
The staff recommendation to approve the development was carried with seven councillors’ support – Mayor Tracey Roberts and Crs Samantha Fenn, Hugh Nguyen and Frank Cvitan voted against it.
The council report said the property had 79 mature native trees, 11 exotic or fruit trees and 32 native plants.
It said 32 trees would be removed, including 15 for the bushfire management plan, but the owner planned to plant 33 native trees to replace them.
Council conditions restrict operating hours to between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, and require installation of a 1.8m high solid screen as well as a noise management plan.
Cr Newton asked that the City approach Main Roads to reduce the speed limit on Greenvale Place and install horse warning signs.
Ambitious plan to create farm-style childcare centre
The father and son team behind a farm-style childcare plan in Banksia Grove have been involved in the industry for two decades.
Atlantis Group Bob Hindle has been operating childcare businesses in the northern suburbs for the past 22 years and his son Rory bought into the business about five years ago.
They bought a semi-rural property on Harbour Elbow last year, where they want to provide children with space to play in nature.
“Here children will be fully immersed in daily nature play, agriculture and environmental teachings,” Rory said.
“There will be nature play structures built, as well as open space.
“The existing agriculture on the grounds will remain, with children being encouraged to assist with the up-keep.”
They said the Banksia Grove centre would have recycle bins and soft plastic recycle bins for REDcycle drop off, chickens to eat food scraps, a worm farm, composting and a vegetable garden.
“We have also committed to planting more trees than we remove during the process of construction and renovation,” Rory said.
“The building itself will wrap around a cluster of trees with a completely glass facade.
“We will be building some Carnaby’s cockatoo habitats for the periphery of our property to restore some of the lost environments for these critically endangered birds.”
The Hindles acknowledged community resistance to the project, and said they were keen to engage with the community and support events within the community.
“We want to be part of the Banksia Grove community and believe there is great need for this service,” Rory said.
“We will continue to work with residents and the local community to minimise their concerns.”