Maitland Town Hall.Maitland councillors have approved plans for a new childcare centre at Thornton, despite concerns raised by vocal residents.
All councillors except Henry Meskauskas voted on Wednesday night to approve the Avondale Drive centre, which would cater for up to 58 children aged five and under.
It came after someresidents urged councillors to reject the plan, amid concerns the centre would negatively affect the neighbourhood.
Possible traffic dangers, noise, parking and lighting impacts were among the concerns raised.
David Monk told the meeting that he and his wife had not long moved into their new home when they received a letter saying a childcare centre had been proposed for the two neighbouring blocks.
He said there had been a “number of near misses” with existing traffic levels on Avondale Drive since he had moved in late last year.
“We would not have purchased our block if we’d have known a childcare centre [was being built next door],” Mr Monk said.
A report by council staff noted the centre would operate between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, and that the facility would contain indoor playrooms, amenities, sleeping areas, and two outdoor play areas.
There will be a car park with 15 regular spaces and one space for people with a disability permit.
Another nearby resident, Greg Andrews, said residents feared that increased traffic would put pedestrians and motorists at risk.
He said there had been two traffic incidents in Somerset Drive, which also borders the site, since Christmas.
One of these, Mr Andrews told the meeting, involved a driver losing control on a wet road and the vehicle ending up on one of the blocks where the childcare centre is expected to be built.
“We do not want any more traffic in our area,” he said.
Five submissions were lodged against the childcare centre during the public exhibition period, according to council’s report.
Several conditions are expected to be imposed to allay some of the concerns raised by the residents.
Ultimately, council staff recommended that councillors should approve the centre, which was allowed in the area’s zoning.
“The proposal is considered to be in the public interest as it will be providing additionalchild care facilities for the community and whilst the proposal will have some minorimpacts on the area (noting the land is currently vacant), the proposal provides for apositive social and economic benefit for the growing community of Thornton,” council staff noted.
Several councillors spoke in favour of allowing the childcare centre to go ahead.
Cr Robert Aitchison said he understood the concerns that had been aired, but Maitland was an area with a rapidly growing population.
“It’s compliant and we need the extra childcare places,” he said.
Cr Steve Procter responded to residents’ calls for councillors to vote with their conscience.
“I’m afraid we don’t have the opportunity for a conscience vote,” he said.
“We have to rely on the facts from our professional members of staff.”