History making!

By Kath Gannaway
CONCERNS about future heritage protection for the Warburton Hospital and Signs Hill sites will be put before an independent State Government panel.
Yarra Ranges Council resolved at its 9 October meeting to ask the Planning Minister to appoint an independent panel to consider Planning Scheme Amendment C43 which would allow for the restructure of the former hospital site and houses and land in Yuonga Road, Salisbury Avenue and Blackwood Avenue.
The amendment calls for re-subidivision of the now privately owned land from three lots into a total of 25.
The hospital and health resort complex is proposed to be subdivided into a body corporate-style subdivision of six lots.
The access drive, car parking areas and landscaped gardens would form a common property area.
The amendment was originally placed on exhibition in June 2004 and while some objections have been resolved, submissions from local historian Ellena Biggs and from the National Trust remain unresolved.
A shire report states that a proposed Conservation Management Plan which recommended a Heritage Overlay be applied was deemed inadequate by the submitters..
There were concerns, it said, about the level of significance given for individual buildings and the site as a whole and that vital elements were missing from the management plan because certain areas had not been researched.
The report stated, however, that the amendment would assist in the future use of the hospital, which has been vacant since it was sold by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 2001.
“Under the current lot structure, any future owner of the hospital buildings also has the responsibility for 21 dwellings,” the report states.
“This burden has partly been responsible for the under-utilisation of the hospital since it closed.”
Yarra Ranges O’Shannassy Ward councillor Monika Keane told the Mail she believed the outstanding submissions were not opposing the subdivision but about ensuring the heritage integrity of a significant part of Warburton’s history.
“It’s about getting all the heritage controls and getting all the properties up there looked at because some of the individual houses are very old as well,” Cr Keane said.
“Our (council’s) views are pretty much the same as the objectors. We need to know exactly what is on the site, including in the housing stock, and we need to have the heritage protection overlays wherever they are needed.”
Cr Keane said she does not know of any specific plans for the future use of the hospital but said she believed everyone in the local community would like to see the site used again.
“There will always be a feeling that it should be run as a hospital, but it’s now in private ownership and it’s up to the owner to decide what they want to do with it … even though a hospital would be great!”
The current extension given to consider the amendment runs out in June 2008.

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