Port plan could send cars underground

Underground parking could be a possibility for the Nelson Bay foreshore under a draft Port Stephens plan for the town’s future.

The long-awaited draft Nelson Bay Strategy will be put to Port Stephens councillors at a meeting tonight, potentially shaping the town’s future.

But the Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association believes the document still contains a ‘‘dealbreaker clause’’ that may separate the town and waterfront.

The plan includes height restrictions dropping from seven storeys above Dowling Street to a three-storey cap at the water’s edge.

But projects showing ‘‘outstanding design excellence’’, providing a public benefit or built on designated sites could qualify for another two storeys if the plan is approved.

Association planning sub-committee head Nigel Waters said the draft was an improvement on previous attempts but the group remained concerned at how the height exception could apply.

‘‘We’re worried it could allow five storeys on the marina and the community has decisively rejected that a number of times,’’ Mr Waters said.

‘‘If that is the effect I think that’s a dealbreaker.’’

Port Stephens Council manager community planning and environmental services Bruce Petersen said the design excellence clause would be used rarely.

‘‘It’s unlikely you would see a lot of buildings exceeding the height limits,’’ Mr Petersen said.

‘‘It would have to be an exceptional circumstance.’’

Among the plan’s other suggestions are multi-level parking stations on Donald Street aimed at consolidating parking outside prime areas.

Holiday accommodation will also be required to ‘‘be reasonably adapted’’ to permanent residence.

The plan includes a recommendation to regenerate Apex Park into a ‘‘green link’’ between the town and ocean by improving crossings on Victoria Avenue and linking to the waterfront more effectively.

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