Margaret River Surgery expansion sees Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council waive extra parking

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.
Camera IconThe Shire of Augusta-Margaret River. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times/Augusta-Margaret River Times

Councillors have waived all cash in lieu and extra parking requirements to support a major expansion for the Margaret River Surgery.

At a Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council meeting last Wednesday night, members heard the Station Road medical centre needed to expand its footprint to keep up with client demand, to recruit more medicos, and support existing doctors using Margaret River as a regional base.

A contentious aspect of the approval was allowing existing nearby public carparks to meet any parking requirements for the busy surgery, with workers encouraged to park elsewhere to free up capacity within the surgery’s existing carpark.

Planning consultant Marc Halsall floated a proposal for the Shire to consider a less costly cash compensation scheme increasingly favoured in metropolitan Perth and the Peel region where the cost of public, rather than private land, was calculated, with consideration given to other transport options such as cycling to work.

An active transport plan would be commissioned as part of the approval, but the cash in lieu component was not included in an alternative recommendation put forward by Cr Ian Earl.

“I believe there is adequate parking in that area,” Cr Earl said.

“Sometimes we need to use our discretion to make some items like this get up. It’s needed in the community.”

Colleague David Binks voiced concerns any decision to wave cash compensation in lieu of new parking bays might rile other local developers required to build new bays or offer compensation to the Shire when that wasn’t possible.

“I’m concerned we are being inconsistent,” Cr Binks said.

But he and others backed the final decision based on the need to support expansion of the medical centre, with COVID-19 emphasising the crucial need for more medical services in the shire.

Deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum said the clinic was an “essential service” already in close proximity to the Margaret River town centre and no one wanted to see more land converted to blacktop.

Cr Earl said some residents might grumble about the lack of parking in town, but he believed parking was adequate, and a big carpark on Wallcliffe Road across from the surgery provided plenty of overflow.

General practitioner and owner Dr Cathy Milligan told the meeting more room was needed to hire extra doctors and health professionals because the surgery was at capacity.

Dr Milligan noted delays in appointment bookings and a regrettable flow-on of cases to the Margaret River Hospital – where many of her doctors also worked – came as a result of restrictions to the existing practice.

“The work rate has gone up,” she said.

“There are delivery delays. There is a lot of pressure.”

Cr Tracey Muir said the increased need for medical as well as mental health services in the region showed any steps to prioritise client access deserved support.

“I don’t think it should be carparking as the reason people don’t get that help,” she said.

Mr Halsall said cash in lieu was now less favoured as the dominant approach to parking shortfalls in WA.

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