BASS Coast Council has knocked back a proposal to re-open Warley Hospital in Cowes as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre and medical clinic.
The plan to revamp it as a non-acute, inpatient clinic attracted six objections, based mainly on its location in a tourist area and concerns about community safety. While all councillors supported the idea of a drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in the shire, there was division over whether this was the right site for it.
Cr Michael Whelan argued that the proposal would tie up one of Cowes’ most valuable development sites for decades when it should be used to accommodate the town’s growth and development as a vibrant tourist centre.
It also ran counter to a great deal of planning work carried out by the council after extensive community consultation, he said.
“This proposal is contrary to the plans set out in the Cowes Activity Centre Plan and The Visitor Economy Strategy. It is these strategies that will make Cowes a great place, not an outdated planning scheme currently subject to audit and review.”
In August Council started preparing a planning scheme amendment, including a Development Plan Overlay to encourage and facilitate the redevelopment of the key Isle of Wight and Warley Hospital sites.
Cr Whelan said this was important to fulfil the vision that Cowes would no longer expand spatially but achieve more density, with a population living within walking distance of the hospitality and retail centre of the town.
The Cowes Activity Centre Plan seeks to improve the built form and streetscape in Cowes to “create a town worth visiting all year round”.
“Council has articulated a clear vision for this site and has already commenced the planning process to implement it.”
Earlier, Cr Stephen Fullarton, who moved the motion to approve the drug and alcohol treatment centre, said the Bass Coast community was crying out for such a facility. “Many people within the medical profession had spoken to me about the need for such a facility.
“No one is more protective of Cowes than me. I would be the first to reject it if I considered this would pose a risk to our community.
“At the moment it’s a derelict site. It was our hospital. It’s been on the market for six years. If this was to be refused, who knows how long we will have to wait.”
Cr Les Larke said the plan was for a non-acute treatment centre. “This is an opportunity to have this sort of establishment and rehabilitation centre within an existing hospital establishment, well managed and secure, and an opportunity for the local community who have drug and other problems.”
Cr Brett Tessari agreed facilities were needed. “But I can’t believe we would even be considering this right in the heart of Cowes, our tourist mecca, with more than one million tourists a year.”
Cr Bruce Kent quoted a submission from a local constituent who argued that the results of such a development would all be positive: “new health services, new employment and new economic activity. Most importantly, more people will get well again.”
Cr Julian Brown said the proposal was for a non-acute treatment facility that would treat lower level categories of drug abuse. “We often hear the Island wants more medical facilities. There are significant employment opportunities with this proposal.”
Cr Geoff Ellis said while Bass Coast needed a drug and alcohol treatment facility, it should be in a rural area.
Cr Clare Le Serve said she believed this was the wrong option for the old Warley site.
To approve a redevelopment of the Warley Hospital site as a drug and alcohol treatment clinic
- For: Crs Fullarton, Brown, Kent, Larke
- Against: Crs Whelan, Rothfield, Tessari, Ellis, Le Serve
Following the decision to refuse the permit, Cr Whelan sucessfully moved a second motion, which stated that the proposal was contrary to the State Planning Policy Framework and Local Planning Policy Framework , would have an undue detrimental impact on the amenity of the area and was not consistent with the general residential zone proposed for the site.