The creation of a health and education precinct in Wauchope moved a step closer with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council confirming a planning proposal for an aged care and sub-acute care facility.
Bundaleer Care Services is seeking to provide a 140 bed aged care facility fronting Johnstone Street and a sub-acute care facility on High Street.
At its May 16 meeting, council sent the planning proposal for the facility to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for ministerial approval.
If approved by that planning authority, the proposal would go on public display with those comments coming back to council before a final determination.
However, in a marathon discussion, the merits of the project - it features four storey developments on both High and Johnstone street frontages - were strongly debated.
The original plans were for a three storey structure on High Street.
During his presentation, Bundaleer CEO Gareth Norman described the development as an integrated facility offering a new style of aged care to the area.
He said the plans for the facility would be 'dead in the water' if the height restrictions in the new plans were not adopted.
Cr Justin Levido asked: "To be crystal clear, if we do not agree with your request, this project will not go ahead?"
Mr Norman said: "No"
Cr Lisa Intemann said she was 'flummoxed' to see the proposal now featuring a four storey development on High Street.
"I am enthusiastic about this proposal. It is wonderful for Wauchope and I congratulate Bundaleer for gaining the (federal) funding," she said.
Bundaleer is going higher (up to four storeys) on High Street than has ever been proposed to council before.Cr Lisa Intemann
"However, the progress of the variations is disappointing. Bundaleer is going higher (up to four storeys) on High Street than has ever been proposed to council before.
"It was always three storeys and with setbacks from High Street. But not four storeys; yes on Johnstone Street but not on High Street.
"Again though, the precinct for health and education in Wauchope is just great," she said.
Cr Geoff Hawkins said he had spent six years as a councillor looking for major drivers for Wauchope.
"This is an activity that will create employment and have significant social benefits," he said.
"To progress this forward, we have to trade off some things.
"In Bundaleer, we have an innovative group of people who are developing relationships with universities all around the world.
In Bundaleer, we have an innovative group of people who are developing relationships with universities all around the world.Cr Geoff Hawkins
"There is a bigger picture here," he said.
Mayor Peta Pinson described the development as a 'lifetime opportunity that has landed on council's doorstep'.
"We should suport the vision that Bundaleer has," she said.
"We need to be visionary and put this in council's DNA."
But Cr Levido was cautious about council supporting the four storey proposal.
"I think staff have tried to come up with a balanced proposal," he said.
"You cannot ignore the planning instruments that are in place. We are basically approving this without public consultation.
"Council's role is to apply planning provisions and statutory provisions and apply these fairly.
"My fear is that with this, we are going beyond that."
Cr Peter Alley said the building 'is going to be a massive structure at 14.5 metres on High Street'.
"These numbers (the height of the building) matter," he said.
"The height of that building will stick out like a sore thumb. It will tower above other buildings."