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‘‘This project will be driven by what the community wants,’’ Urbangrowth’s Newcastle program director Michael Cassel promised on Tuesday night as he lifted the covers off a broad plan of community engagement at a public briefing with Newcastle council.
The consultation period will run from August 10 to September 18 and will include a community summit, a targeted ‘future leaders summit’ with young people, briefings with interest groups, business breakfasts, surveys, pop-up information stands at community events and shopping centres along with print and social media campaigns.
‘‘We’re confident the engagement process will get real results and will reflect community views,’’ Mr Cassel said.
Nothing is on the table, he said, and nothing is off it either.
‘‘The government is committed to making things happen and wants to deliver those community benefits quickly.’’
The consultation will be extended beyond the city’s boundaries and into Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens, he said.
All of it, though, hinges to some extent on the court decision regarding the heavy rail corridor, but as the court heard last week, the government has no intention of returning heavy rail to the corridor but will be required to keep the tracks and some infrastructure in place unless it can get support to remove them from the state’s upper house.
Mr Cassel said he was confident that Urbangrowth could be coming back to the community with a broad plan by the end of the year in ‘‘complete consultation’’ with Newcastle council.
On Tuesday night, Greens councillor Therese Doyle sought assurances that the community will be given the option to retain the heavy rail corridor ‘‘for transport purposes only’’, while Labor councillor Tim Crakanthorp asked if businesses would be able to have input on CBD parking issues.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the important thing was that the community was now at the planning table and could drive the city’s future.
‘‘The feedback might be that the (rail corridor) all be kept as open space,’’ she said, although Mr Cassel warned that option would not create the jobs or the investment incentives needed to provide the city with a viable future, ‘‘and I’d be out of a job’’, he joked.
Newcastle council will formally debate the public consultation plan at its meeting next Tuesday. The council has already held three meetings with Urbangrowth, adding several elements to the plan which now appears to have widespread support.
Three projects for startersURBAN GROWTH says it can get cracking on three key projects almost immediately if its consultation reflects community support. They include:
* The adaptive re-use of Newcastle train station and the adjoining bus depot. If the community signals a desire to keep the heritage buildings as they are and use them for a different purpose, work could start immediately within the council’s current planning guidelines.
Market Street, Newcastle.
* The Market Street connection to the harbour. If the community wants a better connection to the harbour from Hunter Street Mall, work to bring down rail corridor fences could start almost straight away with new pedestrian links and promenades.
* The Civic station precinct. If the community wants connection to the harbour from the Civic precinct, including the new law courts and university building, the connection could be built ‘‘to deliver as much benefit to the community as quickly as possible’’.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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