Business owners have opposed a proposal to relocate a methadone clinic to Auburn Street.
The Denison Street Clinic, which has operated at the same premises for two decades, operators put in an application with Wollongong Council to move the facility to the unoccupied buildings at the rear of 4-10 Auburn Street.
Clinic operators have been forced to look for a new building for the 300 patients after the Denison Street site was sold to developers.
The clinic, located at 49 Denison Street, will be knocked down to make way for a multi-storey commercial and apartment tower.
The new proposed location is surrounded by businesses, apartment buildings and Wollongong Station.
Cedric Borcherds opened Amalfi Cafe two weeks ago and he is worried about the “stigma” of a methadone clinic being located next to his business.
“I didn’t know about the plans to relocate the clinic when I built the cafe,” he said.
“I am mainly concerned about the criminal activity that will come to the neighbourhood. There will be drugs sold close by and people will congregate together.
“The people on methadone should get their fix from the pharmacy not a clinic.”
Clinic director Richard Carbury said the site was a good location because it was fit for purpose, had parking available, was close to public transport and the Wollongong Hospital Precinct.
“The building was previously used as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre run by Watershed for three years,” he said.
“The relocation is also only a short-term move. The clinic will have a three-year lease but then the developer wants to build a big new apartment building.
“Therefore property values will not decrease in the long term.”
Mr Carbury urged locals who opposed the relocation of the clinic to see the patients as normal people, who had a drug problem but were seeking treatment.
“Do people think our patients are monsters?” he said. “They are normal people who have a heroin problem.”
Mr Borcherds and Lysaght Credit Union manager Paul Dwyer said the Auburn Street site was not the right location.
“The train station is the gateway to Wollongong and the first thing people will see is a methadone clinic,” Mr Borcherds said.
“School children catch the train in the morning and afternoons. A methadone clinic is not a good environment for them to be near.
“Patients who go there are normal people but when they are on drugs they are not normal people.
“Like it or not, methadone clinics have a stigma attached to them.”
Mr Dwyer said he had made a submission to council opposing the relocation of the clinic on the grounds of safety and security concerns.
“There is poor pedestrian access around the station and there will be additional cars coming to the site,” he said. “There is no parking in Auburn Street now.
“Obviously the clinic is needed. There is a high demand for it but the site in Auburn Street is not the best.
“I am sure the right location is very difficult to find because it needs to be close to public transport and medical services.
“I can appreciate the patients are getting treatment but I am concerned about the type of activity that is associated with methadone clinics, especially because our business deals with banking and money.”
Mr Carbury said he understood why people were concerned about their personal safety but those risks could be mitigated.
“There will be a security guard and security cameras,” he said. “These measures will make sure there are no issues.”
There had been no major incidents at the clinic since its opening until May this year when a former patient was stabbed to death.
The clinic previously attempted to move to a cottage house in Gladstone Avenue this year but that application was rejected by the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel in June.
The Auburn Street application is under assessment with Wollongong Council and is waiting determination.