A West Footscray family is locked in a battle with Maribyrnong council over the design of a childcare centre being built behind their home.

Redevelopment of the Church Street Children’s Centre is nearing completion, ending a three-year saga in which a planned renovation led to the existing centre being demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.

Khartoum Street resident Jess Lilley said while her family was aware the centre was being rebuilt, it had been in the dark about elements of the build, including a giant ‘solar tree’ towering over their yard.

Ms Lilley said she was pleased to see sustainable design elements being used in the project, but questioned the scale of the “intrusive and overwhelming” structure and whether more could have been done to protect the amenity and privacy of surrounding residents.

She first flagged her concerns with the council in July, also offering suggestions to help reduce the impact of a raised playing area and stairwell directly overlooking the family’s yard and home.

“I’m disappointed the council hasn’t yet taken action on our concerns,” she said.


The ‘solar tree’. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

Maribyrnong council community services director Clem Gillings said while solar panels are traditionally placed on the roof of buildings, most of the roof cladding on the children’s centre is translucent sheeting to enable natural light into learning spaces.

“The solar tree structures are part of the shade structure for the children’s play space and the design features provide an opportunity to promote environmental education to the children attending the centre,” she said.

The solar trees were not shown in early concept designs for the project, but Ms Gillings said the new design had been advertised and on the council’s website since last October.

“The design complies with all the required planning restrictions such as having appropriate building setbacks and is not expected to be adjusted at this stage, however further works are yet to take place on the site, such as landscaping and various material finishes, and this will further influence the presentation of the site.”