A PLANNING Panel convened to consider submissions made in relation to a planning scheme amendment sought by the Department of Health to secure helicopter flight access to the helipad serving Leongatha Hospital from future surrounding development has recommended that South Gippsland Shire re-draft the proposal.
Second time around, Council has been advised to amend its planning scheme to protect helicopter flight paths for the hospitals in both Foster and Leongatha, and to consider implementing development overlays to reflect actual flight paths.
This is a different approach to the format of ‘concentric rings’ of development overlays around hospital helipads that has been adopted as standard for other locations around Victoria via the Department of Health initiative.
The difference was prompted by arguments put forward on behalf of Telstra, which favours a more selective planning control to the blanket overlay due to the potential impact on its ability find sites suitable for installation of telecommunications towers.
Protection for the helicopter landing spot for Korumburra Hospital, which occurs at Korumburra Showground, was not included in the re-drafting recommendation even though there is no existing planning scheme provision to cover it.
Two Foster residents, Jim Wilson and Stan Tindle made submissions which were presented to the Planning Panel in regards to the Foster situation, but South Gippsland Hospital (SGH) itself did not make a submission even though the Council advised them in writing of the proposed amendment.
“We missed it but we would have made a submission if we realised,” current SGH Board Chair Meg Knight said.
An aviation expert appearing before the Panel on behalf of Telstra suggested the possibility of the Foster helipad being moved from the showgrounds onto SGH-owned land on the basis that there was plenty of vacant space.
Ms Knight has advised that the hospital would “proactively work with the Council” when it undertook the new version of the amendment, although she didn’t agree with the idea of moving the helipad because of the future development of the new aged care facility using up vacant space on hospital land.
(Although an agreement has still not been signed between SGH Board and Prom Country Aged Care, Ms Knight said it was going to happen soon and was adamant that the aged care facility would definitely be going ahead on SGH land).
A helipad was also not included on the hospital’s master plan which was created to explore development possibilities over the next 15 years approximately.
“The need for a helipad at the hospital is so far ahead it’s not even worth thinking about,” Ms Knight insisted.
“The helicopter lands just a scoot away across Jones Street and it is a very infrequent occurrence in daytime throughout the year; we haven’t had to interrupt a football game for ages,” she pointed out.
“And on the issue of noise, the whole town hears the helicopter landing and it would be on a similar flight path to either the showground or the hospital, so I don’t think it would make any difference.”
The Shire is scheduled to make a decision at tonight’s Council meeting on redrafting the amendment.