Feds called on to get Bowden a pharmacy

SA’s Minister for Housing and Urban Development requested the Federal Health Minister discretionally issue a pharmacy licence for Bowden after residents complained about a lack of essential services in the redeveloped suburb.

Mar 12, 2024, updated Mar 12, 2024
Currently a car park, this lot in Bowden is set to be SA's first built-to-rent development. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

Currently a car park, this lot in Bowden is set to be SA's first built-to-rent development. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

Bowden residents wrote an open letter to Renewal SA in November last year requesting essential services like a pharmacy and a post office be fast-tracked for the suburb, claiming “the promise of walkability and reduced car reliance that Bowden has been sold on” is yet to become a reality.

InDaily can today reveal this spurred action from the Minister for Housing and Urban Development Nick Champion, who in February this year wrote to the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler requesting his approval under ministerial discretion for a new pharmacy licence to be issued to service Bowden.

“Over the last few months, I have received several approaches from representatives of the Bowden community, including a signed open letter with over 50 signatures requesting this essential community service be provided,” Minister Champion’s letter – seen by InDaily – reads.

Champion said the Bowden community had “flourished”, with more than 830 apartments and townhouses occupied. More than 2400 dwellings will house 4300 people at the completion of the project, not including those residing in neighbouring suburbs.

A further 1000 people will live just 750 metres away at the to-be-developed West End Brewery site, further necessitating a pharmacy for the area according to Champion.

He noted that a previous application for a pharmacy licence at Bowden was submitted in June 2021 by pharmacist Phillip Spyrou, which was rejected by the Australian Community Pharmacy Association as the application did not meet the requirements under the National Health Act 1953.

Specifically, it was rejected because the proposed pharmacy was at least 1.5km, in a straight line, from the nearest pharmacy: Hindmarsh Pharmacy on Port Road.

“On 30 July 2021, Mr Spyrou wrote to the former Minister for Health and Aged Care requesting the Minister exercise their discretion under the National Health Act to approve his application to supply pharmaceutical benefits on Fourth Street, Bowden,” Champion’s letter continues.

“Renewal SA wrote a letter of support for this application on 31 August 2021. At the time, it was forecast that upon completion, there would be 3200 residents living within the development. I understand Mr Spyrou was advised his application was unsuccessful.”

He added that “other key population statistics” derived from Census data supported a pharmacy licence being issued, including “the fastest-growing demographic sector at Bowden is the ‘downsizer’ market”, “450 people who live in this area had long-term health conditions”, “Bowden contains an established cohort of Specialist Disability Accommodation”, and “affordable housing rental and sales is the largest growing profile in Bowden”.

“Bowden is a master-planned community with a focus on promoting healthy and active lifestyles through the promotion of active public transport links, along with walking and cycling options, to reduce the dependency and ownership of private motor vehicles,” Champion’s letter reads.

“Given this focus the importance of essential services being provided within the project area is likely greater than in traditional suburbs where access to essential services is predominantly via private motor vehicle.”

In a letter responding to Champion, also seen by InDaily, the Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said his hands were tied.

“A pharmacist seeking approval to supply pharmaceutical benefits at particular premises must first make an application for consideration by the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority against the requirements of the Pharmacy Location Rules,” Butler’s letter to Champion reads.

“The Rules are intended to provide and encourage an appropriate geographical spread of approved pharmacies to ensure communities have reasonable access to pharmaceutical benefits.

“Where an application does not meet the requirements of the Rules and the application is subsequently rejected, the applicant pharmacist may request that I exercise discretionary power to approve them to supply pharmaceutical benefits.”

Butler said he could only exercise discretion to approve a pharmacy licence “if satisfied that a community would otherwise be left without reasonable access to pharmaceutical benefits, and it is in the public interest to approve the pharmacist”.

“Legislation does not allow me to review a decision whether or not to exercise discretion, irrespective of whether the decision was made by me or a former Minister.

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“It is open to Mr Spyrou, or another pharmacist, to make a new application for consideration by the Australian Community Pharmacy Authority, and should that application be rejected, a subsequent request that I exercise discretion.”

Residents ‘hugely disappointed’ with Sentinel development

The update on the push for a Bowden pharmacy comes after plans were revealed for a 13-storey built-to-rent community on a major parcel of land in the suburb’s centre last month.

Sentinel Real Estate Corporation unveiled renders for its mixed-use development on the 4000-square metre site adjacent to the Plant 4 retail destination in Bowden.

The company proposes 240 apartments for the site, a gym, two outdoor communal areas and a swimming pool.

Only one “small scale” retail tenancy was proposed for the development alongside a small leasing office and a business centre on the ground floor.

Speaking to InDaily, Bowden resident Amy Johansen – one of 55 people who signed a letter about the Sentinel development sent to Renewal SA last year – said she was “hugely disappointed” with the newly revealed plans.

“How a developer that has an almost $15 billion portfolio… can’t tweak and give back to a suburb that they’re coming into,” Johansen said.

When plans were revealed, planning consultants Future Urban, on behalf of Sentinel, argued the small-scale retail offering was “appropriate” because the complex is located next to Plant 4.

Johansen said “we almost choked when we read those words”.

“There’s a complete disregard for any feedback, or input from residents or Renewal SA,” she said.

“The housing contribution is great – we need more houses – but the contribution to realising the vision of Bowden is none. They even have their own gym which means the residents won’t be supporting other local businesses.”

When asked by InDaily whether Sentinel would re-consider its retail footprint after hearing feedback from Bowden residents, the company said it was “looking forward to delivering a significant boost of high-quality and sustainable housing for South Australians in the Bowden precinct and closer to the time of completion of the development, we will conduct an expressions of interest process for the retail space, at which point we will consider a range of opportunities from interested businesses”.

“Will be great to see what interest comes back,” Sentinel said.

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