Counting the cost of childcare

A 120-capacity childcare centre earmarked for Yarragon has drawn criticism from neighbouring residents.

Ellinbank developers Murray and Shona Jeffrey have lodged plans for the $1 million project with Baw Baw Shire Council at a site fronting Yarragon’s Princes Highway service road.

The couple has previously built centres in Warragul, Drouin and Bunyip.

Mr Jeffrey told The Express Yarragon “was crying out” for a childcare centre.

“There is a demand. We believe a lot of young families are moving to Yarragon… their only current options for childcare are Warragul or up further to the Valley,” he said.

Plans for the facility include a nursery, dedicated areas for different age groups and a 900 square-metre playground.

Mr Jeffrey said the Princes Highway service road site was chosen for its ease of access.

“It’s safe as it’s off the highway, on a service road, so cars can get on and off the highway. It’s easily accessible and visible from the highway,” he said.

“It’s a nice big site, with lots of trees out the back. And that natural environment is what we are looking to work with, to promote a homely centre families will enjoy.”

However, Malcolm Pettigrew, who lives next door to the proposed facility, says the site is unsuitable for such a development, and posed a number of safety risks.

“The traffic and safety factors are very dangerous. I don’t think it’s a place for 120 children,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“Why would they build a childcare centre there for a start?

“There’s going to be a nasty accident… even now it takes ages to get out on the highway when the traffic is really busy. This is only going to make it worse.”

Mr Jeffrey said 120 was the centre’s capacity, not the expected number of enrolments.

“I certainly don’t envision those sorts of numbers to turn up straight away. We hope to get a core group to start with and build from there,” he said.

“We’re ready to expand with Yarragon as it does.”

If approved, the centre is expected to create about 20 childcare jobs, along with a number of additional jobs during construction.

Mr Jeffrey said he would only employ locals during development and operation.

“That’s just what we do, we’re local people ourselves and we aim to get involved very much with the community,” he said.

“Our aim is to provide a really high quality service complete with a homely atmosphere.”

The application is expected to be discussed at Baw Baw Shire Council’s next meeting.

Baw Baw Shire Council director of planning and economic development Matthew Cripps said council would assess the application against the relevant clauses of the Baw Baw Planning Scheme before deciding on the proposal.

He said a full assessment of the proposal has not been finalised, but council officers had completed a site inspection of the premises.

A spokesperson for VicRoads, which owns the service lane, said it had “no concerns with the location of the centre” but if approved, the developer would be required to construct a seven metre wide driveway to allow two cars site access at any given time.

A large poplar tree on the median of the Princes Highway may also need to be removed to improve driver sight distance, the spokesperson said.