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Local childcare demand doesn’t exist: provider

Thursday, 14th April, 2016

The Tramway Terrace site where not everyone is happy about plans to build a long day child care centre. The Tramway Terrace site where not everyone is happy about plans to build a long day child care centre.

By Andrew Robertson

Plans for a new long day care centre in the city have unsettled existing providers who say demand isn’t there.

The proposed centre in Tramway Terrace would operate five days a week and cater for up to 53 children aged six weeks to five years, according to a development application to City Council.

The applicant has told Council the centre would address a perceived need for long day care in the city and that the site was chosen for its quiet, central location. 

But the plan has already struck a hurdle after a number of neighbours have complained it will lead to an increase in traffic and noise in the neighbourhood, which is made up of holiday accommodation and elderly residents.

A Council report agreed, saying the centre would alter the existing character and amenity of the area and recommended the DA be rejected because it is inappropriate for the site.

While Council has deferred the matter so councillors can inspect the site, long day care providers yesterday said there was already a surplus of long day care places in the city and the centre wasn’t needed.

Happy Day office manager Kristie Pinnuck said the not-for-profit centre currently had 30 children in long day care and the waiting list for children aged between 2 and 5 was “relatively clear”. 

With preschools and home-based care also available, Ms Pinnuck said parents had an abundance of options for childcare.

“So there’s no demand that we can see that would make it worth opening up,” she said.

Last month’s axing of 140 jobs by Perilya had only made the situation worse.

“We’ve lost a lot of kids due to the mining (restructure), and there’s just not the kids to put in place of them.”

Busy Kids owner David French also said he could not see a third long day care centre surviving in the current market.

He and his wife opened their Bagot Street centre about three-and-a-half years ago after purchasing the assets of a previous centre located on the same site which had closed.

About two years ago they increased the licence to cater for 39 children.

“I don’t think we’ve had 39 in that period,” Mr French said.

He said he wasn’t against competition and would welcome any investment in Broken Hill that was going to improve services and facilities and “encourage more people to move into the area”.

“At the moment, given the bit of research we’ve done with other service providers (and) given our own experience at Busy Kids ...  I’m concerned for anybody who would make a significant investment as to whether or not the market’s there.”

However, Mr French also has an issue with the location of the proposed new centre, which would neighbour a number of holiday cottages he and his wife also own.

He said at the very least another location should be found by the applicants, who have suggested to Council that a number of neighbours were “canvassed” and encouraged to make submissions.

“I firmly believe it’s not an appropriate location on a narrow street and the streets lined with Legacy widows who enjoy peace and quiet and no traffic,” Mr French said.

The BDT contacted the applicant for comment.

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