Evans retirement village grounded

PLANS for the Evans Head Retirement Village have been thrown into chaos with the withdrawal of RSL Lifecare from the project.

Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker announced at a business lunch last week that the charitable organisation would no longer be building the retirement village.

"We got a letter from RSL Lifecare on Friday advising that the board had determined not to proceed with the development," Mr Walker said.

"It was out of the blue, and in fact, at Tuesday night's council meeting we had made amendments to our Section 96 planning act to fix up issues with the planning consent."

The letter sent to the council by RSL Lifecare CEO Ron Thompson indicates that fees and conditions imposed by Richmond Valley Council were the determining factor in the $78 million project being scrapped.

The centre was to have included a 120-bed nursing home, aged care units, residential housing and other facilities.

Other issues raised included delays by the council, concerns over transparency of fee arrangements, probable loss of aged-care bed licences due to further time delays and uncertainty as to when development could actually start on the site.

Mr Walker said he disputed some of the reasons given by RSL Lifecare, but said they had a legal right to walk away from the project.

"Subject to the lawyers looking into it, the entire plan, which has been 14 years in the making, is over."

Mr Walker said the next step for the council was to decide what they wanted to do.

"The priority for a retirement village facility will remain and we will look for alternate ways to bring it to fruition," he said.

The project has been controversial from the start and a concerted campaign to stop it has been waged by Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee president Richard Gates.

"It's not before time that people recognise that this is an inappropriate place to put a complex," Mr Gates said.

"We have never been anti-nursing home but we were against the location due to the risk of it being near an airpark."

Mr Gates said he was concerned ratepayers would be left footing the bill for the collapsed project.

"We are left with a legacy of $6million and a hole in the ground that becomes a mosquito-infested site and contaminated soil dumped on the other side of the area," he said.

"And we still don't have a nursing home.

"We still need to find someone who will build a nursing home, even if it's beyond Evans Head, perhaps at Coraki," he said.

"I suggested this to Janelle Saffin, where they could even extend the existing nursing home out there.

"It would give further reason to reopen Coraki Hospital and take the burden off Lismore Base Hospital."

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