Vignerons vow battle over aged-care plan

Vignerons opposing a $52 million aged-care village in the heart of the Hunter's wine-producing region have pledged a legal battle if the Joint Regional Planning Panel approves the development tomorrow.

Signature Gardens Retirement Resorts wants to build 201 two-bedroom homes, 20 serviced apartments and an 80-bed hospice on 43 hectares at the intersection of Oakey Creek and Marrowbone roads, Pokolbin.

Vignerons Matt Cowley and Michael Hope said the development had attracted 104 submissions, 103 objecting to the proposal.

They are questioning why Cessnock City Council manager of strategic planning Louise Gee recommended the development be refused, yet one of her staff said it should proceed.

Stephen Leathley, of Insite Planning, the planners for the development, said the application was dealt with at a council level, examining the strategic issues in Cessnock, not under the state policy for seniors housing in NSW, with which the application complied.

Council staff were not available for comment.

Signature Gardens Retirement Resorts general manager Peter Caldwell said all his company wanted was for the development to be determined on its merits and in line with the state government policy for retirement villages.

"There has been a lot in the local media over the last fortnight about the housing crisis being faced by the elderly in our local community and that problem is only going to compound over the next 20 years," he said.

"Finding appropriate sites for retirement villages is never easy, and the facts are that the site we propose is the only site that complies with the strict state government criteria within Cessnock.

Mr Cowley said it was "the right development but in the wrong place".

Mr Hope said vignerons were prepared to launch their own action if the development was approved.

"This is a major encroachment on the vineyard area, which requires protection, and this is the thin edge of the wedge," Mr Hope said.

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