Cessnock City Council's Black Hill rezoning paves way for commercial precinct

A site map showing the land between Black Hill Road (bottom yellow boundary) and John Renshaw Drive (top yellow boundary).

A site map showing the land between Black Hill Road (bottom yellow boundary) and John Renshaw Drive (top yellow boundary).

A SWATHE of land near Black Hill has been rezoned to make way for a Hunter freight hub and industrial precinct spruiked as a new home for up to 1000 jobs.

The formerly rural zone will now be available for industrial use after planners gave the green light this month, several years after the change was first.

The Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese property is now earmarked to become a Hunter freight hub under the long-term Lower Hunter Regional Strategy. It was chosen to make the most of its location at the nexus of major highways. 

The plan divides roughly 300 hectares between John Renshaw Drive and Black Hill Road into three classifications. Two thirds will become industrial and the remainder is divided between rural living and environmental conservation.

Cessnock City Council first applied for the change five years ago but submitted an amended plan in November. Mayor Bob Pynsent said at the time the change was “about creating jobs and promoting growth” for the Cessnock area. 

Black Hill Environment Protection Group’s Terry Lewin said on Tuesday his group was disappointed with the approval for a project it believes is in the wrong place. He said rezoning on adjacent lands had already created a large supply of Black Hill property tagged for industrial use .

“It has a high likelihood of becoming a white elephant,” he said. The land is flagged for a freight hub in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy, a provision Mr Lewin dubbed a “flaw” in the document. 

Cessnock City Council’s November application states the mooted freight hub would create numerous flow-on opportunities for other businesses to emerge in its wake. 

“Additional employment lands at...Black Hill will directly support the freight hub,” Cessnock City Council wrote in its final proposal.

The Maitland-Newcastle Diocese acquired the land in 2003 to build a school before changing plans. 

Diocese vice chancellor administration Sean Scanlon said on Tuesday the church was thankful to the council “for its vision and support in seeing this approved”.

“The diocese has owned this land since 2003 and welcomes this rezoning to allow for future use as an industrial hub, creating many jobs for people of the lower Hunter region,” he said. 

The rezoning’s next stage, adjusting Cessnock’s development control plan, will handle the finer details of the zoning changes. Mr Lewin said opponents would be seeking to keep development away from Black Hill Road as the plan progressed.

“In the DCP stage it will be a matter of trying to do as much as possible to actually protect the Black Hill community,” he said.