A decision to allow a childcare centre to be built at one of the city’s most polluted intersections signals a planning system failure, critics say.
Star Weekly last week revealed the state’s planning tribunal had approved plans for a 170-place childcare centre on the site of a petrol station at the corner of Williamstown Road and Francis Street in Yarraville.
The applicant, Southern Capital Corporation, appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after Maribyrnong council rejected its plan for a 206-place centre on the site.
Maribyrnong Truck Action Group secretary Martin Wurt, who helped spearhead a protest action that shut down the intersection during peak hour in August, said it was “madness” to allow a childcare centre to be built at an intersection passed by more than 8000 trucks per day.
“We have some grave concerns about this; young people are the most susceptible to health issues associated with air pollution, and we could not think of a worse place to have a childcare centre.”
Western suburbs Greens MP Colleen Hartland said she will take the issue up as a matter of urgency with planning minister Richard Wynne.
“This is one of the worst truck streets in the state – this site is simply not suitable for use as a childcare centre,” she said. “The EPA is completely useless on this stuff, it’s not good enough.”
Environment Protection Authority chief executive Nial Finegan said the siting of sensitive uses, such as childcare centres, near major roads is not covered by state environment protection policies.
“There is also no planning framework within the council’s planning scheme to prevent or control the building of new childcare centre alongside arterial roads,” he said.
Mr Finegan said the site’s current use as a petrol station means an environmental audit will be required to ensure it is suitable for its new intended use.
Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said VCAT has put binding conditions in place so the future centre will be safe to use, but he is happy to hear from anyone who holds concerns.
“This case may be a sign that the council needs to check their local planning scheme is up to date, so that childcare centres are only allowed in the most appropriate places.”
Maribyrnong mayor Catherine Cumming said VCAT has made its decision and it was now out of council’s hands.
“The location leaves a bit to be desired, but obviously there is a great need for childcare in the area as well.”
Star Weekly attempted to contact Southern Capital Corporation for comment.