newsCO.com.au–Melbourne University throws shade on its own childcare centre

December 17, 2017

A childcare centre owned by the University of Melbourne will be without sunlight for most of the year after it builds a 14-storey student accommodation next door.

Childcare centres are not subject to protections from overshadowing and overlooking because they are not defined as a public space, the City of Melbourne said as it approved the 600-bed tower last week.

The university owns both the Queensberry Children’s Centre and an abutting site to be developed in Carlton’s Bouverie Street.

It had originally planned to build a childcare centre on the site. Instead, it will develop the plot to help reach the university’s goal of doubling the number of students it houses to 6000 by the year 2020.

This is despite acknowledging it would affect the childcare centre for much of the year.

“There will be impacts to sunlight during winter, autumn and spring [on the childcare centre] from the new build, most significantly in the morning and early afternoon.”

A survey of parents and staff at Queensberry Children’s Centre found 98 per cent cent were concerned by the lack of sunlight the development would cause.

As a result, 39 per cent said they would consider moving their child to an alternative centre.

Parents’ representative Greg Ireton​ told the university a lack of exposure to sunlight increased the risk of Vitamin D deficiency and would reduce the amount of time children spent playing outside.

The university’s actions “send a clear message to people contemplating starting or extending a families, to current parents of young children, and to women in particular: the university does not support your return to work or study,” Mr Ireton said.

The university said it was “particularly cognisant of the potential impacts that the proposed development would have on the childcare centre (including impacts arising from dust, vibration and the loss of sunlight caused by the development) and ultimately determined that the proposed development was an acceptable outcome”.

“The university has engaged in extensive and ongoing consultation with interested parties including parents and other users of the childcare centre,” it added.

Queensberry Children’s Centre cares for 96 children each day aged, between 0 and 5, and has a waiting list of 79. Priority is given to university staff and students. 

The university plans to provide an extra 300 childcare places to staff and students by 2020, and said it was looking at building a new 200-place childcare centre in The Avenue, Parkville.

The plans did not impress the Greens councillor Rohan Leppert​ – who nevertheless voted in favour of the student apartment building.

“I would … provide the university with some free advice, that they could certainly have gone around consulting with parents in a more intelligent way than perhaps they have,” he said during Tuesday’s  council meeting at which the tower was approved.

A City of Melbourne spokesman said council officers had “recommended that some screening of windows in the lower levels of the building’s southern elevation may be beneficial in mitigating the potential for overlooking the outdoor play area”.

The Bouverie Street development – which will contain student bedrooms of just 8.9 square metres – is due to open in early 2020.

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