Newcastle City Council has taken steps towards the rezoning and sell-off of Waratah’s Wrightson Reserve, more than a decade after the controversial plan was first mooted.
The park at 26 Edith Street is next door to the Mater hospital and council this week voted to begin a process that would see the land rezoned from public recreation to health services facility.
The issue resurfaced after an unsolicited offer was put to council by a prospective buyer, discussed in confidential session in September.
Council staff will prepare a report outlining how proceeds from the possible sale of the site could be invested into public open space, infrastructure, community and recreational land in Waratah and Waratah West.
Cr Clausen said he was not “ideologically” in favour of selling off public land, but it could be a win-win for health services and the broader community if the revenue raised went towards sorely-needed improvements to surrounding parks.
“Braye Park has had a bad reputation for quite a few years and in part that’s due to a lack of investment,” he said.
“There’s an awful lot of public space already around Waratah and it’s all of a fairly low standard.”
Greens Cr Michael Osborne was vehemently opposed to the rezoning, labelling it a cash grab.
He said there had originally been plans to turn Wrightson Reserve into a meditation space for cancer patients and it was disappointing the community had not been consulted about their aspirations for the area.
“Once again we’ve got the cart before the horse. We’re meant to have our planning hat on, to say what is in the best interest of the community? Not our business hat to say we have an asset that we could sell,” he said.
Cr Osborne called for improvements to the park, which was first targeted for sale by council in 2004.
“It’s not well used because it’s not a pleasant place to be...it’s just grass and a herbicide-sprayed ditch.”
But Cr David Compton (Liberal) said the site had “significant challenges” and a commercial development – such as parking – would be of more benefit to the community.
The plan will be placed on public exhibition and forwarded to the state government for consideration.