A new policy targeting a shortfall in childcare availability within the Shire of Plantagenet was endorsed unanimously by council last month. The local planning policy will provide clear guidance when it comes to assessing proposed childcare premises within the shire to effectively streamline the process. Shire president Chris Pavlovich said there had been waiting lists to get into Mt Barker’s only childcare centre for some time but that the number of places had been “almost adequate” until the past three to five years. “The demand has exponentially increased in that time and the existing service we have is at capacity,” he said. “There has been other childcare providers snoop around over the past five or six years, but our policy has been a bit rigid in that they could not be in residential area. . . and most other planning schemes in the rest of WA aren’t quite that restrictive. “So what we’ve decided is open up so there is more freedom in terms of where we can put them, but put more regulations there so that we can ensure they still fit the environment.” The officer comment in the associated report stated the aim of the policy “is to be proactive” as more childcare centres seek approval and additional services will need to be located beyond the town centre “to meet demand and provide choice for working families”. The comment notes that anecdotal evidence suggest “it is well established” there is a shortfall of childcare facilities in the region, which is backed up by statistics provided to the Shire through a survey conducted by a potential provider. “The policy aims to bolster the positive development of Child Care Premises within the Shire and provides a framework for this development to occur consistently, sustainably and for the benefit of the broader community,” the report said. “With the increase in these services, the Shire will be able to better support population growth, employment growth and in turn, result in greater economic growth.” Mr Pavlovich said the issue was “huge” within Plantagenet because people were desperate for workers. “There are parents who can’t work because they no childcare facilities other than family,” he said. “The child care provider we have had in town for a long, long time continue to do a great job, it’s just that there is that huge waiting list. “The amount of new people moving into the area is also just so unbelievable.” The draft policy will be advertised publicly before it can be formally adopted by council.