PLANNING minister Pru Goward has labelled suggestions of a ‘‘conspiracy with developers’’ as ‘‘ludicrous’’ over plans to allow development in Newcastle’s rail corridor.
Asked yesterday what advice was being considered about areas for development and potential uses, Ms Goward said there were no proposals before the government to develop the corridor once the heavy rail was truncated and light rail installed along part of it.
And ‘‘it makes no sense to take down the dingo fence and replace it with a Berlin Wall of buildings,’’ she said.
‘‘The claim of a conspiracy with developers to rebuild a barrier between the city and the waterfront is just ludicrous,’’ Ms Goward said.
‘‘It would go against the entire logic of the urban renewal strategy, and contradict the understanding we have with the community.’’
Ms Goward said on Tuesday the corridor would become open space and there ‘‘will also be some development’’, before then stating residents ‘‘would be unsurprised to think we would probably end up with a combination of public space and some development’’.
It provoked criticism from the Save Our Rail group that the government had acted ‘‘fraudulently’’, given past comments from Ms Goward’s predecessor, Brad Hazzard, that the corridor would remain in public ownership and ‘‘must remain as a potential corridor’’.
Ms Goward said yesterday the community would be consulted ‘‘widely, robustly and transparently on the future use of the corridor’’ and denied the government had changed its position.
‘‘Let me be clear: there is no contradiction,’’ she said.
‘‘Our position in 2012 was that the corridor should remain in public ownership to be preserved for future use as a potential transport corridor – particularly for light rail.
‘‘Now the light rail aspiration is becoming a reality and we know the route will leave the corridor and join Hunter Street.’’
The government selected the route last week.
Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson reiterated its concerns yesterday, saying Ms Goward’s comments showed the government was only interested in making a profit and the city would end up with a ‘‘great wall of high rise’’.
Newcastle Labor state candidate Tim Crakanthorp said the government could not be believed and it would be an ‘‘expensive folly’’ to spend more than $340 million on the light rail project.
Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy said it was about time the debate ‘‘got some common sense and perspective’’.
‘‘Quite frankly, anything would be better than the wire fence that’s there now,’’ he said. ‘‘But once again we’ve got all the alarmists riding off on their pushbikes with outrageous claims.
‘‘Common sense should tell you that there will be an adaptive re-use of that space. Instead of everyone panicking and making silly claims, we should be talking about how we can use the corridor for pathways and cycleways, even a skate park or something, and car parks.
‘‘I’d love to see an adaptive re-use of the old Newcastle train station. It’s a lovely old building. I’m not saying it should become a high-rise or anything. Leave it as it is but put something nice in there.
‘‘I think Civic station should be demolished to make way for a car park or something behind it because it’s going to be needed when the uni campus and the law courts open.’’
Prominent Newcastle developer Keith Stronach also hit back.
‘‘The fact is that the corridor is not zoned for development, and it’s not available.’’
Even if it was?
‘‘Well you wouldn’t put high-rise or anything like that along there because you can’t.
‘‘It’s the same with the old railway station building. It’s a lovely old building – you can’t go building higher along there because you’d take away from the character that’s there.
‘‘I’m a great fan of light rail, but this other debate is just a beat-up to make it sound like developers are lining up to develop the old rail corridor. They’re not.’’