New Webster Street medical clinic approved despite objections

APPROVED: A medical clinic with 35 new car parks will be built at a heritage-listed Webster Street property.

APPROVED: A medical clinic with 35 new car parks will be built at a heritage-listed Webster Street property.

A medical clinic with 35 new car parks that neighbours fear will change one of Ballarat’s most historic streets has been given the green light. 

The plan to transform heritage-listed 109 Webster Street into a new orthopaedic clinic was passed by council officers under delegation last week despite residents’ objections.

The planning application to alter a pre-existing restrictive covenant went ahead despite the application receiving 18 objections.

Under the plans the proposed extra 35 car-parking spaces would be added to land at the side and rear of the building. Existing trees and gardens and a rotunda would be removed to make way for the car parking.

Ballarat City councillors were unable to vote on the permit during caretaker mode and it didn’t not appear on the agenda of the final meeting last week.

Cr Samantha McIntosh, who formerly owned the property, expressed concern councillors had been unable to vote on such a transformative project in one of Ballarat’s proudest neighbourhoods.

In a statement to The Courier, City of Ballarat acting executive manager of economic partnerships, James Guy, said council issued a Notice of Decision to Grant a Planning Permit on September 29 under delegation.

The approval continues to divide Webster Street residents with many voicing concerns the medical clinic will transform the street from residential to a  medical precinct precipitating more parking woes. 

One resident who objected the plan said it was not only the clinic’s 8am-8pm opening hours, which he believed would have heavy consequences on already increasing parking issues, but also the streetscape and security of the street which would be affected by the new clinic.

“It’s not just the traffic (it’s impacting), it’s changing the atmosphere,” he said.

“It’s opening it to more commercial properties which we would hate to see.”

Another resident thought the decision was setting a precedent for similar applications in the future.

“Where will it stop?” he said.

“We’re paying our rates, some of the most expensive rates, and we’re not being listened to.”

While he didn’t object to the clinic, he said there were still issues that needed to be dealt with.

“I think most of it can be resolved if the parking issues are dealt with,” he said.

“Parking is not enforced well and that’s what residents are worried about.”

Another resident said it was hoped a mutually satisfactory agreement between objectors and the developer could be agreed upon.

“There are good things about a dedicated sports practice, but this street is becoming less appealing because of how clogged it is with parked cars,” she said.

“In Melbourne if you’re around a hospital everyone pays for parking, this is not a country town … everyone should pay for parking.”

Many agreed council needed to answer for their decision to approve under delegation.

Ballarat mayor Des Hudson said council officers followed due process before issuing the notice of decision to grant a planning permit.

“Council would have been in breach of going over the 60 day time frame,” he said.

“Third party appeal rights still exist to go to VCAT.”

He said, while at times, there have been matters which have gone off to an independent planning panel when a number of objections were made against vacant land developments, this is in a residential zone and will be less expensive for parties to go to VCAT.

The planning application before the City of Ballarat was sought by Ballarat Orthopaedics to alter a pre-existing restrictive covenant on the property to allow the building of 35 car parking spaces, among other changes.

The covenant, established in 2001 between St John of God Hospital and buyers at the time Greg and Samantha McIntosh, specified the property could not be used as a medical facility.

However, The Courier understands St John of God has since agreed to an alteration of the covenant.

As part of the planning permit the building will be converted from a residential dwelling into a medical centre ‘accommodating up to 11 specialist sports medicine and orthopaedic practitioners’. 

Among other alterations, the proposed extra 35 car-parking spaces would be added to land at the side and rear of the building. Existing trees and gardens and a rotunda would be removed to make way for the car parking.