A Men’s Shed for Wallan is likely to be put on the backburner for another year after Mitchell Shire Council chose not to submit an application to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Men’s Shed grants program.
At last week’s council meeting, a motion passed to postpone the application and use the next six months to explore three parcels of land in Wallan and Hidden Valley and undertake community engagement.
The vote of four to two, with three councillors absent.
An alternate motion by south ward councillor David Lowe to apply for grant funding for a shed on the Village Green in Hidden Valley and explore options for a second shed in the Wallan township was earlier defeated on Mayor Bill Chisholm’s casting vote.
Central ward councillors Bob Humm and David Atkinson voted in favour of the alternate motion while north ward councillors Rhonda Sanderson and Fiona Stevens voted against it.
South ward councillors Bob Cornish and Rob Eldridge were apologies for the meeting as well as central Ward councillor Annie Goble.
Hidden Valley and Wallan District Men’s Shed president Philip Fabel said he was disappointed council decided to postpone grant applications.
“I was quite disappointed that the reasoning seemed to be council needed more consultation because of the overwhelming support we’ve already received,” he said.
Mr Fabel said the shed’s working group posted on two community Facebook pages, one for Hidden Valley and another for the broader community, with a combined reach of close to 1200 people and directly emailed more than 300 residents.
“It was overwhelming the positive support for both the site and the concept,” he said.
“We’ve done quite extensive consultation and there’s always overwhelming support.”
The group’s members had identified the location, across from Hidden Valley Boulevard from Hidden Valley Resort on the Village Green and close to where the golf club’s temporary pro shop was located, as ideal.
Mr Fabel said the site had everything the shed needed – inclduing connection to power, water and sewerage.
“This has got an ideal central location, there’s a car park already established out the front, it can be easily accessed by the retirees from the new village but also by anyone from within the Valley and Wallan and is right near the existing bus stop,” he said.
However, due to it’s location in Hidden Valley, it would need to be rendered with a tiled roof, requiring additional funding.
It’s also located in land zoned as public park and recreation reserve, making ongoing maintenance the responsibility of council.
Concerns were raised by the northern councillors about a lack of community consultation, the openness of a shed in Hidden Valley, the use of existing open space and transportation options.
“We haven’t done enough consultation with the community on this. Hidden Valley has been seen as a gated community so we need to discuss if this will be open to the community,” Cr Stevens said.
Cr Sanderson said the community had historically not supported building on open spaces.
“People don’t want anything built on Hadfield Park and this is the same principle. If this gets up, this prevents areas in the south from having a shed,” she said.
“This alternate motion is premature and I’m disappointed to see it.”
Cr Lowe said the men’s shed group was committed to building a valuable asset to the shire, and would become more relevant with the completion of the first phase of a retirement village.
“They already have some 53 expressions of interest about joining but this is on hold awaiting the outcome of the grant application,” he said.
Cr Lowe said the shed had overcome every objection by council staff by including the entire Wallan district, offering to help council staff complete the application and a community consultation.