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City Council condemns Calvary "creep" onto historic mansion site

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An ambiguity in the State Government’s planning guidelines is likely to allow Calvary Hospital to demolish an historic North Adelaide mansion as part of its multi-million dollar expansion, the Adelaide City Council says.

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At a meeting last night, city councillors unanimously voted to oppose Calvary Hospital’s planned $14.4 million expansion, which would involve the bulldozing of a 1855 North Adelaide house neighbouring the current hospital site.

The expansion plans, released by the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) last week, show the hospital would use the property at 306 Ward Street to build a new single-storey hospital ward with 27 extra beds and a 112-space basement car park.

Community opposition to the expansion has been brewing for over a year, after Calvary Hospital bought the neighbouring house for $4 million and lodged plans to expand onto the site in 2017.

Those plans were later withdrawn following considerable public and city council backlash.

The new plans state Calvary needs to upgrade its current wards at the North Adelaide site to provide for “best practice single-bed ensuite rooms”.

“Maximising the provision of car parking on the site is a sensible response to the current lack of car parking provision for staff and visitors to the hospital,” the report from SCAP states.

“Maximising the provision of car parking is a beneficial outcome for the wider community as well as Calvary.”

But city council papers state the expansion of Calvary Hospital beyond its current boundaries would “diminish the residential character for North Adelaide and run the risk of the predominantly residential character of North Adelaide being eroded”.

According to the papers, the property at 306 Ward Street – described as a large mid-Victorian villa with a high degree of character – was removed from the council’s heritage listing in 2004.

As a result, council papers state the house is not afforded any protection from demolition.

A render of the proposed Calvary North Adelaide Hospital expansion. Image: MasterPlan SA

Underpinning the council’s grievance over the expansion plans are long-standing concerns that the North Adelaide Large Institutions and Colleges Development Plan Amendment (DPA), introduced by former Planning Minister John Rau in 2017, allows “institutional creeping” of university colleges and the Calvary Hospital in North Adelaide due to ambiguity in the guidelines.

Prior to the DPA, Calvary Hospital was bound by guidelines that discouraged it from expanding beyond its “existing site”.

But the DPA now states Calvary Hospital is permitted to expand on sites with which it is “directly associated”.

According to Calvary’s plans, the expansion onto 306 Ward Street is compliant with government guidelines, as “development does not have to be located on the site of the hospital”.

Councillor Anne Moran said last night that it was important for the council to be seen as rejecting the plans.

“It’s a wrong move on Government’s part, it was a belligerent move, in my opinion, on their part to intrude on a suburb they’ve never been fond of,” she said.

“(The Government were) heavily lobbied by the institutions, which had quite a powerful hand with the former government and quite possibly the current one.

“I think we must do this (oppose the plans) at all costs.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad said it was never the intention to provide opportunities for institutions in North Adelaide to “creep” by purchasing neighbouring sites.

“We will see this happening over the next 10, 20, 30 years,” he said.

“I think on this issue it’s very important that council stands strong and takes a conservative view for heritage in the area and making sure we actually challenge the planning laws in place that are in essence going to unlock the opportunity for everybody else to do the same.

“We were either misled or what has been drafted in the way of planning wasn’t tight explain what the intent of the previous government is.”

The council’s planning assessment manager Rebecca Rutschack said it was difficult to determine whether the council’s opposition to the plans would put a stop to the development from going ahead.

“I do feel that there will be some push-back from SCAP about not allowing this expansion, but I think there is the concern that if do allow this creep then that could allow that creep (to occur) again and again and again,” she said.

In May last year Planning Minister Stephan Knoll told InDaily he was working with the Adelaide City Council to “remove any ambiguity about the ability of institutions to expand their footprint as a result of the North Adelaide Large Institutions and Colleges DPA”.

Knoll said today that he was continuing to engage with the council around their views on heritage and planning within North Adelaide.

“Given there are ongoing legal proceedings relating to the use of s 29 (the expansion clause) in amending the City of Adelaide Development Plan, the Government is taking a precautionary approach and awaiting the findings of this process before any decision is made,” he said. 

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said last night that she hoped that the council would make a “very, very strong case” to prevent further institutional creep.

“It is not the intention, it has never been the intention and we don’t want to actually see any of that encroachment happen,” she said.

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