PLAN BY LOCALS: The old Byron Bay Hospital site may stay in community hands.
PLAN BY LOCALS: The old Byron Bay Hospital site may stay in community hands. Christian Morrow

Community bid to buy prime North Coast hospital site

THE push is on to keep the old Byron Bay Hospital site in community hands, with a meeting of locals to create a plan to convince the State Government to sell the prime site back to the Byron community.

More than 50 locals met to generate ideas for the site's use and begin the fundraising push because it was unlikely the State Government would let the site go for $1 as it did with the old Mullumbimby hospital site.

With another community meeting due within the month, convenor Chris Hanley said the community would need to have its plan in place by the end of the year.

With an estimated value of $8-10 million, locals would need the support of private individuals and philanthropists to buy the site.

"It was one of the most positive and productive community meetings I have ever attended," Mr Hanley said.

"We came away with a list of 100 ideas including a drop-in centre for the homeless, tech innovation hub, a creative industries hub and medical centre.

"Everyone at the meeting was adamant that the site would be community building and not another tourist facility or attraction.

"Nor do we want to duplicate any of the fine work being done by Paul Spooner and his team at the Byron Community Centre.

"A good number the local building and construction industry are willing to contribute to refurbishment of the site."

Mr Hanley said the State Government had undertaken not to sell the site until the community had a chance to bid.

"The race is now on to get a working group together and identify ways of financing the initiative," he said.

Also addressing the meeting was Nationals MP Ben Franklin, Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW.

"There is a strong feeling that it should be kept in community hands if possible and I share that view," Mr Franklin said.

"That's why I have personally secured a commitment from the Minister for Health that he will consider a proposal from the community for the future of the site before he examines any other option."

For more information, phone Chris Hanley on 0419 662 338.



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