The South Gippsland Shire Council received funding in 2020 to build a new Early Learning Years facility in Leongatha.

As a local kindergarten, we at Leongatha Community Preschool Centres Inc. see this is an exciting and important development in our area; it will provide our community with much needed childcare spaces.

However, unfortunately to the detriment of our kindergarten and in a cost saving measure, council has plans to convert our existing car park at Allora into a road.

This is incredibly dangerous.

The proposed road (entry and car park) for the new facility will create enormous congestion and, as a result, is a safety concern for the children, staff, administration, committee and parents from Allora Kindergarten.

Council’s plans will, in effect, create a thoroughfare only metres away from our Allora Kindergarten centre, staff, families and children. The volume of traffic using the precinct will be significant. The congestion created puts the safety of our children, families and staff at risk.

In the Symmons St precinct, there is an existing children’s centre accommodating over 100 children plus staff, Allora accommodating 30 children plus six staff and the new facility which will accommodate 120 children plus staff.

In total, there will be 250 families using this space daily, plus approximately 50 staff members.

Council will be creating approximately an additional 16 car spaces for the new facility with an additional 34 parking spaces being created for staff employed at all three facilities.

This is substantially inadequate and heightens our safety concerns for the families and small children who use not only our service but will use the new facility in the future.

We have voiced our concerns to the council and our local MP, however, feedback received is that the council are set with their design and have made it clear financial constraints affect their ability to provide a safe car park with adequate parking spaces for the families who will use the precinct.

Their concern is far less with the safety, functionality, accessibility and usability of the new facility and the precinct as a whole and more with the design, appearance and size of the new facility.

Allora’s building and entry is already unacceptably close to our car park (only an average length of a car away). Although council has loosely agreed (via email and conversations, no official plans provided) to make some minimal changes to our entry such as re-orienting the entry, extending the gate, possibly adding a shelter for parents to wait and seating, we inevitably will have a busy road built directly in front of our centre with inadequate parking for everyone using the precinct.

This, if allowed to go ahead, will be an ongoing safety issue for everyone using the precinct far into the future.

This area is designated for providing care and education for children aged 0-5; it is paramount the safety of these young people is put ahead of the aesthetics, orientation and the size of a building and its playground.

We feel the safety of children, parents and staff is being overlooked and disregarded in the designing of this new facility.

We understand council has financial constraints and a design vision in mind. But, it is important also, that the safety of the youngest members of our community is not overlooked because they don’t have a voice.

The new facility needs to have a purpose-built entry and exit with a car park which is adequate for a facility of its size, not a thoroughfare past Allora Kindergarten.

We feel it is vital the public are made away of council’s plans. Their myopic plans will directly impact the residents close to building as well as the families and children using all the facilities in the precinct for decades to come. We do not want to see another heavily congested education precinct like we already see in our community.

Leongatha Community Preschool Committee of Management.