Sunshine Hospice admits defeat in council battle
A SUNSHINE Coast hospice care provider has admitted defeat in the face of Sunshine Coast Council opposition and withdrawn its development application to build a new six-bed hospice.
The decision comes exactly 12 months after Sunshine Hospice announced it had identified a 6100m2 land parcel at 7-15 Illuka Street, Buderim for the future hospice, with final purchase of the land subject to council development approval.
The Sunshine Hospice board wrote a heartfelt letter to its 200 volunteers, sharing the news their shared dreams of building a new hospice had been dashed.
According to Sunshine Hospice managing director Sue Mason-Baker, the past few years had been an expensive and frustrating time for the charity.
"The board and the volunteers have worked so hard for many years to realise the goal of creating the coast's first ever purpose-built community hospice," Ms Mason-Baker said.
"We spent years searching for a suitable block of land. We then engaged a visionary local architecture firm to design a facility that was unobtrusive, providing a tranquil environment for patients and surrounded by natural bushland and landscaped areas.
"None of us could have predicted what unfolded next. Along with a top urban planning consultancy, we attended many meetings with council staff, both before and after lodging the DA.
"We undertook community engagement and we tried to engage with local Cr Christian Dickson, but with limited success."
Ms Mason-Baker said many people had misconceptions about hospices.
"A hospice is not a hospital, but rather a peaceful home away from home," she said.
"Yet the local community objected to it."
The application received 674 submissions with 159 objecting and 515 supporting.
She said Cr Dickson supported the local objectors and shared their side of the story with local media.
"In December last year, councillors were to consider our application, with council planning staff recommending against it," Ms Mason-Baker said.
"We were told if we went away and addressed certain issues raised by planning staff, we would gain support for the DA."
Ms Mason-Baker said they went back to the drawing board, spending more time and money on redesign.
"Keep in mind, this is a six-bed hospice, not a massive facility," she said.
"By this time, the local election was looming and we were told council could not consider our DA until after the election was over.
"Finally, last week, council planning staff advised that our DA would be considered at the May 28 council meeting, but that they were still recommending refusal.
"Over the weekend, our board made the painful and difficult decision to withdraw the application.
"The group decided that council's five new councillors were highly unlikely to vote against the recommendations of the planning staff.
"Additionally, the board recognised that because of COVID-19, fundraising efforts have been severely curtailed and also that federal and state governments would now have less budget to support projects like ours."
Ms Mason-Baker said the board was already starting a strategic review process to work out how best Sunshine Hospice could support end-of-life care on the Sunshine Coast.
Cr Dickson said council officers thoroughly assessed the proposed changes and prepared a report for determination of the application at the May ordinary meeting for a decision by council.
"On May 20, the applicant's planning consultant wrote to council on behalf of the applicant advising that the application is withdrawn, as provided for under the State Government legislation," Cr Dickson said.
"As the application has been withdrawn by the applicant, it will be removed from the May ordinary meeting agenda."