Council set to leave its mark on the corridor

AFTER literally decades of debate, the future of the Newcastle heavy rail corridor looks likely to be decided on Tuesday night, with Newcastle councillors being asked to endorse a rezoning proposal to effectively end the corridor’stime as a rail line.
Nanjing Night Net

With Hunter Street now a construction zone for the light rail, the state government is determined to press ahead at the same time with the other side of its Revitalising Newcastle process, which centres on opening the old heavy rail corridor to new use.

The council first endorsed the rezoning proposal in October 2016. A changed version went on exhibition during September and October, and it’s this new versionthat is scheduled to be voted upon on Tuesday night. As the Newcastle Herald has observed previously, it only takes a single building on this long, narrow 4.2-hectare parcel to effectively end its utility for any future transport need.

But with Transport Minister Andrew Constance writing to the council in September to reaffirm the land will be “no longer required as a transport corridor”, there seems to be little if any appetite among those in power to even pause on the rezoning process to ensure that the grand experiment of putting light rail on Hunter Street is a success. Given all of the expense, and all of the disruption,it is fervently hoped that the 21stcentury version of the downtown tram is indeed an unqualified smash hit.

But what if it’s not?

It would be a major embarrassment, but with the corridor preserved, the opportunity would still be there to shift the light rail off the road. Instead, bolstered by reams of reports and a survey showing 57 per cent favouringdevelopment over 34 per cent wanting the corridor preserved, the council appears determined to take a major step closer to the point of no return.

It should be noted, however, that both this version, and the original, are nowhere near the wall of buildings that critics had predicted would be the end result of “handing the corridor to developers”. The first plan envisaged 500 to 600 new dwellings.The new one says just 100 to 150. Commercial and retail space is downby 20 per cent. Open space is up by 3200 square metres.

But in this instance, it may bethe big picture, rather than the detail, that matters the most. And from an official perspective that requires us to keep ploughing ahead, with faith in the vision.

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