A proposal to relocate a methadone clinic has gotten the tick of approval from Wollongong City Council staff but the application awaits final sign off from the Wollongong Local Planning Panel.
The Denison Street Clinic operators want to move into an existing drug and alcohol counselling centre at 4 Auburn Street, Wollongong. The clinic needs to find a new home for its 300 patients after the Denison Street site was sold to developers.
Wollongong Council staff recommended the application be conditionally approved despite more than 10 submissions opposing the relocation.
The local planning panel will meet on November 7 to decide the fate of the clinic.
Acting Lord Mayor David Brown said there had been significant community opposition to the relocation but he was “interested to see what decision the panel members made”.
“The methadone clinic is a legal business that has a licence from the state government to provide the service,” he said.
“But many people in the community, and I as well, hold the view that the service should be dispersed and offered in other ways such as through pharmacies.
“The panel will give the application full consideration when they make their final determination.”
The application received 84 submissions. The report made to the planning panel states some residents are concerned the site is too close to residential areas and businesses, and school students and elderly people use the railway station and bus stop close by.
However, the proximity to public transport will allow all patients to access the site.
The site is only about 450 metres walking distance from the existing methadone clinic premises which has operated for two decades, and therefore “there is likely to be no substantial change in crime and anti-social behaviour”.
Public safety and anti-social behaviour concerns were also raised but the report states those fears could be mitigated. Safety measures would include on-site security such as CCTV, an on-site security presence from 5.30am and staff will aim to reduce congregation. Wollongong Police raised no objection to the relocation.
The report states the council’s social planner said opioid treatment programs were “recognised as a good practice for minimising harm and reducing the wider economic and social costs to the community; including impacts associated with unsanctioned opioid use including criminal activity”.
The new premises will include a dosing room, a consulting room, administrative offices, reception counter, waiting room and staff facilities. It is unlikely to be at the premises long term because there are plans to redevelop the site.
There will be a maximum of four employees at any one time including one doctor, one nurse, one administration staff member and one practice manager.
The proposed hours of operation will be 6am to 1.15pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 11am on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The early morning shifts are to cater for working patients. Eight parking spots will be available to the north of the building.
The Auburn Street building used to be used as a ‘sobering up centre’ and was later used as a Watershed drug and alcohol treatment centre.
The panel rejected the clinic’s application to move to Gladstone Avenue in June.