Corridor’s use now the domain of public debate

Deja vu: The front page of the Newcastle Morning Herald on April 14, 1973.
Deja vu: The front page of the Newcastle Morning Herald on April 14, 1973.


THERE were some passionate efforts at last week’s public voice session at Newcastle City Hall regarding the next move for the rail corridor. One such passionate effort came from Andrew Fletcher, the carnival barker for the Hunter chapter of the property council.

Mr Fletcher provided councillors and an overflowing public gallery with a history lesson, using the very pages of the precursor of this esteemed organ from 1973.

Citing a news report with the headline ‘City must know’ that referred to the uncertainty of the future use of the rail corridor, he made the point that the debate about the use of the rail corridor has been going on for yonks and the time for talking is over.

We need action. We must all get behind this or capital will take flight. The cranes will come down and we will all be rooned.

I thought to myself, “Self, have I heard Mr Fletcher use that one before?” Later that night, I woke up sweating and confused like Captain Willard in the opening scenes of Apocalypse Now and tossed and turned. I thought long and hard. Nada. Zilch. Rien. Nichts.

And then it came to me like a bolt from Zeus. The “City must know” article was mentioned in the Newcastle Herald in October 2014 when reporting the property council’s submission to the Nile inquiry on the planning process around these parts.

Under the headline “Property council calls for green space on rail corridor”, the article reported the following from that submission: ‘‘Construction of any commercial building in the corridor is simply not viable,’’ it says, before outlining its reasons and adding that developing the corridor ‘‘would be akin to building in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall. Put simply, there is no feasibility study in existence to support the claim that commercial or residential development will take place on the heavy rail corridor once the line is truncated. Such claims are mere rhetoric and cheap slogans designed to distract Novocastrians from the substantive issues. The property council’s policy position … [is that] the heavy rail corridor must be preserved as public domain and should be transformed into green space for pedestrians, cyclists and other active users.’’

I guess time will tell if the certainty Mr Fletcher craves for investors will be as enthusiastically matched by his advocacy regarding the non-viability of “any” commercial building in the corridor expressed in that submission, or whether it will prove mere rhetoric and a cheap slogan.

The decision to move to gateway on the revitalisation of the corridor is dunski. All over red rover. The corridor will not be used for light rail. To me, the corridor was the right place, but it’s not going to happen.

The fight was good and strong but it’s lost.

What matters now is how that corridor is used.

The methodology for public consultation will be a skirmish and it needs to be publicly argued. Will public submissions to the process only be available to the corporatocracy? Will such submissions even matter?

There will be battles regarding building height and form, especially in the corridor from Brown Street to Watt Street.

Will the property council organise a rally for the corridor to become public domain that they advocate “should be transformed into green space for pedestrians, cyclists and other active users”?

We’ll see.

The corridor is dead. Long live the corridor.

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