War Memorial Hospital Development Proposal Sparks Concerns
A new development proposal for Waverley’s War Memorial Hospital site by aged care provider Uniting has provoked the ire of the local community.
The main issues surrounding the proposal, which has received objections from several local precincts in Waverley, include a disregard for the heritage of the site, a lack of care toward ecological issues and overdevelopment that provides no substantial benefits for aged care patients.
Greg Vaughan, a member of the Bronte Beach Council Precinct, told The Beast that the historic Edina house, where the hospital is located, should be a treasured part of Waverley’s heritage.
“Edina is the crown jewel in terms of heritage in Waverley; the house and grounds are on the Local Government Heritage Register,” Mr Vaughan explained. “Really, it’s Waverley’s Vaucluse House.”
Waverley Council said it is committed to the conservation of heritage items in Waverley and strives to ensure any potential development is in line with its planning controls.
“Waverley Council acknowledges the potential of the War Memorial Hospital for State Heritage Listing and is of the opinion that the site meets the threshold for State Heritage significance,” a Council spokesperson told The Beast.
Edina was gifted to the Uniting Church by the Vickery family in 1919 to be a hospital.
Under the proposed plans, the house, once part of the local skyline, will be surrounded by taller buildings and no longer be visible to the public.
“Ideally, Edina should be part of the area and people should be able to see it, but under this proposal it will be totally obstructed by the buildings on Birrell Street and become a secret, and then it will quickly become an irrelevant secret,” Mr Vaughan said.
The development proposal centres around a large new residential aged care building on the house grounds, which will necessitate the removal of several mature Moreton Bay figs and Magnolia grandiflora trees, all declared by Waverley Council to be of exceptional significance.
“The removal of any trees on site relates primarily to the proposed layout of buildings specified in the site-specific DCP and is not directly caused through the proposed controls in the Planning Proposal,” the Council spokesperson explained.
There are also concerns that the current proposal would disrupt a major ecological corridor between Waverley Oval and Queens Park. However, preserving the heritage grounds of the house could not only benefit the site, but also the well-being of the aged care patients at Edina.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that aged care residents, particularly those with dementia, experienced significantly lower levels of agitation when they can spend social and recreational time within a garden or green space.
While the proposed development will offer some increase in aged care beds, there will also be an increase in independent living units that are open to anyone aged over 55.
The current proposal includes one aged care building and seven buildings that house independent living units, ranging from four to seven storeys high, along Birrell Street and Bronte Road.
While the development will ensure that the War Memorial Hospital site can continue to effectively provide aged care, some stakeholders have suggested that reducing the number of independent living units could allow for the aged care building to be constructed away from the central gardens, retaining their heritage significance.
In trying to balance the delivery of good aged care in an aging population with ecological and heritage concerns, Mr Vaughan told The Beast that Waverley Council needs strong community support to be able to effectively oppose the pitfalls of the current proposal.
“We need to awaken the community and support these objections, so our council has a stronger platform to oppose this plan,” Mr Vaughan said.
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