Greater Shepparton City Council held a closed session yesterday about a planning application from residential rehabilitation centre The Cottage.
Located on St Andrews Rd, Shepparton, the facility has been the subject of debate in recent weeks due to confusion about planning permits and licensing rules.
Councillors listened to numerous objectors and supporters at the McIntosh Centre from 1.45pm, with an estimated finish time of 11pm.
The News spoke to several objectors and supporters outside the venue.
The Cottage volunteer Marj Higgins showed her support for the centre, speaking about the important work she had seen in ‘‘healing and progression’’.
‘‘People need the support and it would be a disaster for the community if it was gone,’’ Ms Higgins said.
Staff members Rylee Brawn and Donna Venables also joined the fight, speaking positively of their workplace.
‘‘I’m so passionate about helping people and fighting to erase the stigma,’’ Ms Brawn told The News.
‘‘I understand both sides and that people are going to have fears due to preconceived ideas,’’ she said.
‘‘But we have a strict entry policy and we’re teaching life skills.’’
When asked if they feared The Cottage’s closure, Ms Venables said her disappointment at such an outcome would be ‘‘beyond words’’.
Current resident Aaron Gilhooley told of how The Cottage ‘‘saved his life’’.
‘‘Having a place to call home has given me and a lot of other people a safe place,’’ he said.
Objectors said they did not oppose a rehabilitation centre in Shepparton, merely its location and the lack of transparency in planning.
‘‘I’m not against the centre, just this model because it’s not manned 24-7,’’ neighbour Rosalie Smith told The News.
‘‘They call themselves a business, but what sort of business are they operating?’’
Neighbours Joy and Ken Whyte said they were concerned guests were able to wander the streets late at night.
The couple said they feared for their safety and believed the location was a poor choice.
Mr Whyte was also disappointed in the council’s management of the situation, after being turned away as a speaker on the day.
‘‘I couldn’t get a say, I never got an email back,’’ he said.
‘‘There are questions the council must answer,’’ Mrs Whyte said.
‘‘They’ve got to show their hand.’’
The council is due to decide on the planning application at the June ordinary council meeting next Tuesday, June 19.
The meeting is open to the public to attend and observe the council’s debate on the application.