The long-awaited Melton hospital is a step closer to reality after last week’s state budget.

Making good on a pre-election promise, the state government announced $2.4 million for a business case to begin planning for the hospital.

The government’s election papers say the business case will “determine the capacity and range of services, and how it will link into services at other hospitals in the region.”

Land in Cobblebank has been earmarked as the site for the hospital.

Melton mayor Bob Turner said the business plan was an important first step.

“We are very grateful that the state government has recognised both the challenges and opportunities our fast-growing communities present and has put funding where it’s needed,” Cr Turner said.

“The Melton hospital business case … [is an] important first step towards a major project that will transform everyday life for City of Melton residents.

“I’m looking forward to council working with the state government on its timeline for the delivery of these plans and crucially, the timely delivery of the associated project.

“More than 20,000 people signed a petition and joined council’s campaign for a new hospital and I’m pleased that the process towards making this a reality will begin in the next financial year.

“Greater access to quality health services … must match the city’s growth to secure liveability for City of Melton residents and this budget recognises that.”

The council’s debate at last week’s meeting centered on a contract with advocacy organisation The Civic Group, which had been working with council to advocate for the Melton hospital.

While several councillors pushed to end the relationship with the group now the business case had been promised, the council decided to maintain the contract in the event of future hospital advocacy needs.

“We’ve got the business case, but it’s not finished yet,” Cr Michelle Mendes said.

“Until it is concrete and it’s standing up then it’s not finished, and we’ve got to have that advocacy behind us moving forward.”