Cessnock airport proposal approved

A HOTEL/motel and commercial development proposed for Cessnock Airport has been approved by Cessnock City Council despite council officers recommending the application be refused.

The proposal, which has been on the council’s books for seven years, was finally approved at a meeting last night with some councillors saying it will improve the image of the vineyards gateway. Others said the development would look like a giant box.

Councillors Alison Davey, Chris Parker, James Ryan, Ian Olsen and Rachel Main voted against the plan and Cr Ryan described the proposed motel as a ‘‘great big brick’’. ‘‘This is a signature site in Pokolbin and part of the gateway to the tourist area, forming part of the experience for our visitors when they drive in,’’ he said.

‘‘The hotel is a giant brick with no subtlety and can’t be recessed back and hidden in the landscape.

‘‘There are a number of objectors worried and a number of vineyards worried.’’

Cr Neil Gorman said Cr Ryan’s comments astonished him because what was already on the site was an eyesore.

‘‘There’s an old airport hangar and buildings pre-World War II,’’ Cr Gorman said.

‘‘They are going to be ripped down and replaced with a modern hotel which will be a huge improvement on what’s there at the moment.’’

Cr Rachel Main said the main issue was not the type of development for the site but its design, which she likened to a big box, similar to Cessnock’s Big W building.

Cr Alan McCudden said the site at the moment was ugly and an embarrassment to the city.

Cr Chris Parker said access to the site was also an issue.

Cr Cordelia Burcham said the council needed to be progressive and approve the development, which would create jobs, bolster the local economy and bring people into town.

Cr Ryan said this was a case where all development was not good development.

‘‘Hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation are part and parcel of the vineyards. However, approving this development is accepting a second-class standard for Wine Country,’’ he said.

Cr Olsen said Wine Country was running the risk of becoming tired, ugly and predictable.

‘‘It’s a great shame that the development did not change after seven years and the developer has simply kept submitting it until there was a group of councillors prepared to approve this great big box,’’ Cr Olsen said.

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