Newcastle City Council approves rail corridor rezoning

GREEN BELT: A section of the former rail corridor being transformed into the Market Street Lawn. Picture: Marina NeilNewcastle council approved the rezoning of the city’s former heavy rail corridor on Tuesday night despite strong objections from Greens councillor John Mackenzie, who said there wasno evidence the land would not be needed for future transport needs.
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The decision paves the way for a mix of open space, university buildings and residential and commercial development on the strip of land between Worth Place and Newcastle station after a bitter debate stretching back at least 27 years.

Cr Mackenzie was the only councillor to vote against the plan –independent John Church was not at the meeting –andthe only councillor to speak on the issue other than lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, who moved the motion to support the rezoning.

He said after the meeting that he accepted the decision of the council, the issue had been “divisive in the community for far too long” and it was time for a “truce”.

“It is critical from this point that we move forward collaboratively to make this decision deliver genuine revitalisation outcomes, in terms of university expansion, social housing and open space.”

Newcastle council approves rail corridor rezoning The rail corridor leading into Newcastle station before the lines were removed.

A section of the disused rail corridor near Merewether Street which would be open for development under the rezoning plan.

Worth Place, the western extremity of the subject corridor land.

The site of the proposed Newcastle University development on a section of the old rail corridor and adjoining Honeysuckle land.

TweetFacebook Rail corridor rezoningBut during the meeting he came out swinging against a report from council staff on the rezoning, saying it was open to accusations of bias and left the council’s decision open to legal challenge.

The report said 394 public submissions and 137 form letters had objected to the rezoning, while226 submissions and46 form lettershad been in favour ofit.

But Cr Mackenzie said the report had “miscategorised” the 137 submissions as form letters, and he took exception to a section of the report which said those in favour “expressed excitement about the development of the university precinct”.

“We need objective, formal information, not speculation on people’s emotional state,” he said, noting there was “no corresponding speculation” on the emotions of those against the proposal.

Cr Nelmes cited the results of a council-commissioned survey of 955 residentsby ReachTEL, which she said showed almost 60 per cent of people supported the rezoning while 34.7 per cent wanted the land retained as a transport corridor.

Cr Mackenzie rejected the survey’s methodology and results, describing it as “push polling”, a marketing technique designed to sway opinion under the guise of a survey.

A group of 38 community and transport activists wrote an open letter to councillors before the meeting also dismissing a survey they said contained questions “framed to elicit a predetermined response”.

Cr Nelmes praised the council for securing concessions from the state during the rezoning process, including an extra $150 million for public domain, a more sophisticated light-rail design, affordable housingand an integrated transport plan.

She said the council had lobbied forcefullyon urban transformation, and that work was producing significant economic development.

ButCr Mackenzie said the council had received no guarantees that the proposed affordable housing development or university campus would be built on the rail line and the state’s transport plan was “little more than a brochure”.

He said there was “zero evidence” before the council that the light rail would have the capacity to meet the transport needs of the CBD once a projected 4000 additional dwellings were built in the city and no traffic plan existed to address congestion once Hunter Street lost two driving lanes to trams.

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Council poised for final vote on corridorNewcastle council votes to back rezoning of heavy rail corridorNewcastle city councillors vote to retain corridor’s public transport zoningRezoning of rail corridor shelved by Newcastle councilRezone plan for rail corridor open for public comment The telephone survey results, supplied by Newcastle City Council.

The telephone survey results, supplied by Newcastle City Council.




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