By Rebecca Peppiatt
A HILLS not-for-profit group that helps people with disabilities through horse riding is once again facing closure after plans to move to a site in Stoneville were pulled out from underneath them.
The new site is based on land owned by the Department of Communities (DoC) which had given the group a draft lease agreement in 2018, only to announce recently it will not be going ahead.
HorsePower Hills has been enabling adults and children with physical and neurodiverse disabilities seek improvements through horse therapies for more than 40 years.
Their current lease in Sawyers Valley is coming to an end in April 2023 so the group has spent the last five years negotiating a new spot in Stoneville next to the Kath French Secure Care Centre on Woodlands Road.
“We were gobsmacked,” HorsePower Hills president Rebekah Millard said.
“We have invested over $50,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours to prepare a suite of design and engineering documents for a centre at this site.
“Nothing in our project proposal to build this equestrian facility has changed since we shared our design plans with DoC in early 2018.”
Group secretary Lynn Fisher said the group had been “blind sided”.
“This leaves us totally in limbo,” she said.
“But we will keep advocating until we get a good, sensible, respectful response from the Minister and then hopefully we can get into some dialogues and get some better outcomes for us.”
Shire of Mundaring president John Daw said he was disappointed with the news.
“HorsePower Hills put a huge amount of time, effort and money into this endeavour with the expectation this project would progress,” he said.
“I urge the State Government to find a better outcome.”
DoC Housing and Assets deputy Director General Mark Bryden said HorsePower Hills’ plans to expand beyond original discussions was the reason for pulling back the offer of a lease arrangement.
“HorsePower Hills’ recent proposal to expand its activities on the site is not compatible with the current operations of the Kath French Secure Care Centre, or with any possible future expansion or changes to the centre,” he said.
“DoC recognises the important role of HorsePower Hills and the outstanding work it does in enriching the lives of children living with disabilities and is currently assisting HorsePower Hills in identifying alternative sites.”
No formal lease agreement between HorsePower Hills and DoC had been entered into.