Mullumbimby Hospital. Photo Blainey Woodham / The Northern Star
Mullumbimby Hospital. Photo Blainey Woodham / The Northern Star Blainey Woodham

Demolition of old hospital to start in new year

THE demolition of the old Mullumbimby Hospital is set to start in early January 2019.

The purchase of the four-hectare site from NSW Health will be finalised today, after the State Government offered the property to Byron Shire Council for $1 in May 2017.

There is a well-documented history of asbestos contamination on the site and Council's priority is now remediating the site which includes the removal of asbestos and other contaminated materials.

Contractors will take control of the site in early January and the remediation is scheduled to start on 7 January 2019.

Phil Holloway, Director Infrastructure Services, said the contractors were experienced in the demolition and remediation of contaminated sites like the Mullumbimby Hospital and at all times the health and safety of the community will be the main focus.

"The contractors will be using recognised best practice processes to remove the asbestos, with operations to be undertaken and contained in a special negative-pressure tent," he said.

"Tweed Coast Demolitions and Excavations is managing the job with Aztech Services, the company used to remediate homes affected by the Mr Fluffy insulation in Canberra, to handle the asbestos removal.

"There will be security measures in place and the site will be fully fenced for the duration of the remediation process which is expected to take approximately six months."

Council staff and the demolition contractor Tweed Coast Demolitions are door-knocking residents and businesses in the vicinity of the hospital site, providing them with information about the project and leaving information in people's letterboxes.

"I know it's a busy time of year but the purchase settlement is being finalised this week and when we have possession of the site we want to work as quickly as possible to remove the contamination," Mr Holloway said.

A community Drop-In session will be held at the Left Bank Rd entrance to the hospital on Monday December 17 2018 from 4pm - 7pm.

What happens after the remediation is finished?

The Mullumbimby Hospital opened its doors in 1958 and for decades provided valued medical services and support to the community. It closed in 2016 when the new Byron Central Hospital at Ewingsdale was completed.

"The old hospital holds a special place in Mullumbimby's heart and the community fought hard to retain the site after it closed," Councillor Basil Cameron, said.

For this reason Council, in October 2017, formed the Mullumbimby Hospital Site Project Reference Group (MHSPRG) to consider all potential uses of the old hospital and recommending to Councillors how the site should be used for the benefit of the community.

After twelve months of meetings and discussions the MHSPRG recently presented recommendations for the future use of the site to Council.

The MHSPRG came up with a range of recommendations including:

. An innovative multipurpose facility that is designed to allow multiple uses for people of all ages and income levels;

. It includes space(s) for consultation and may potentially include spaces for work, education, gathering, recreation, and a café, all intended to support residents and community, encourage social contact and develop with neighbours new relationships and opportunities;

. An integrated mix of residential development that provides, and continues to provide, in perpetuity, housing that meets the needs of community members, including older people and people with diverse household incomes;

. Exemplary, high quality design, especially architectural, landscape and urban design;

. High levels of environmental sustainability;

. Community-led governance mechanisms will be included, both for the project development stages and for the ongoing governance of the new site developments.

Cr Cameron, spokesperson for the MHSPRG, said every member of the group had the common goal of transforming the old Mullumbimby Hospital site into a valuable space that represents the community.

"The MHSPRG was made up of 21 representatives, including community groups, individuals and Councillors, and it has been a very challenging, complex project because the old hospital site has a strong history in our community - people want this connection to continue," Cr Cameron said.

"Every member of the MHSPRG shared their experiences, expertise and perspectives so we could gather the collective wisdom of the 'crowd'.

The best practice, deliberative approach saw members coming together and thinking as a group, rather than a set of individuals with different ideas.

"Experts in urban planning and design also worked with the group," he said.

"We also undertook consultation with the local community with an online survey and face-to-face opportunities at markets and shopping areas for people to talk to us about their vision.

"Council endorsed the MHSPRG's recommendations and I would like to thank each member of the group for their work and commitment over the last twelve months.

"While the remediation is being done Council staff will be looking at planning requirements to enable the redevelopment of the site.

"It needs to be said that no decision has been made regarding the future 'look' of the hospital site, the MHSPRG has just provided its recommendations."