A proposal to develop a childcare centre on land adjacent to the heritage-listed former shire hall in Werribee has been rejected by VCAT.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal issued its decision on the proposal earlier this month, after the developers appealed Wyndham council’s decision to refuse the plan.

The developer, PHHH Investments No. 3 Pty Ltd, was seeking permission to use and develop land near the former shire hall, which is now a Masonic centre, as a childcare centre for 91 children.

The former shire hall, located near the corner of Watton Street and Greaves Street South, dates back to 1866, and served as Wyndham council’s first office, before being sold to the Masonic Lodge.

The developer wants to build a two-storey building, with its front entrance to Greaves Street South, near the former shire hall. The proposal also included upgrading and repairing the former shire hall.

PHHH Investments No. 3 submitted to VCAT that the childcare proposal was “an appropriate and efficient use of under-utilised land” on the edge of the Werribee activity centre, and that the development would respect the significance of the heritage site.

But Wyndham council said the centre would not respect the significance of the site’s heritage value and would block the public’s views of the former shire hall.

VCAT presiding member Megan Carew and member Lorina Nervegna said the former shire hall had “regional and possibly state significance, as the first shire hall in the district and among the earliest remaining in the state.”

Ms Carew said although the idea of building the childcare centre had merit, VCAT stood by Wyndham council’s decision and would not grant a permit.