THE NSW government’s long-awaited concept plan for the future of Broadmeadow could include a new entertainment centre, an international aquatic complex and residential and commercial housing developments.
But the final plan, which the government says is yet to be presented to cabinet, remains a tightly-guarded secret, with key stakeholders in Newcastle saying they haven’t been told what it will look like when it’s made public.
The government first announced that it would develop a ‘stadia strategy’ to focus future spending on the venues it controls, including Hunter Stadium, in 2012.
It would include a master plan covering the Newcastle Entertainment Centre and Showground, District Park and other government land.
But despite the former Labor government working on a draft vision for the area as early as 2009, there’s been little public detail on what a new master plan might include.
The government says it still can’t go into details about what’s likely to be included in the plan because it hasn’t been signed off by cabinet.
But according to multiple sources familiar with discussions about the plan’s design, the government’s ideas have centered on proposals to relocate the Newcastle Harness Racing Club and, potentially, the Newcastle Showgrounds.
What would replace them is still subject to considerable uncertainty, but the Newcastle Herald understands everything from residential housing and accommodation to a new entertainment centre have been considered.
The major sticking point so far though has been what to do with the existing tenants if the sites are redeveloped.
The Newcastle Harness Racing Club has a lease on the paceway until at least 2027 and in April the Herald revealed club chairman Jim Bell had been told of “rumours of discussions at a higher level” about moving but that it wouldn’t leave before its lease was up unless a suitable home was found for it.
Similarly, Showground users like the Show Association and the Newcastle Farmers Markets – the latter is the biggest and most regular drawcard to the area – would need to be taken care of.
The Herald spoke to people familiar with discussions about the issue who said the idea of relocating the trotting track to Maitland had been discussed.
When it’s released the concept plan is also likely to include details on the training centre of excellence that the Newcastle Knights have been pushing for at the site.
It’s also understood that a new entertainment centre has been part of the planning for the precinct.
Other proposals, including an aquatic centre that would support the push by Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes for the precinct’s redevelopment to be tied up with a bid for the Commonwealth Games.
Support for the redevelopment of the showground and trotting track is based on the perceived under-utilisation of some of the only large undeveloped land in an inner-suburbs of Newcastle that has been identified as a key growth area by the state government.
Angus Rose, an urban designer at dwp, said the two sites, as well as the former Jemena Gas Works, were “large pieces of land that aren’t doing a lot for the community” and said he believed part of the plan should include residential housing.
“If you look at housing affordability issues and the shortage of housing not just in Newcastle but the eastern seaboard of Australia, we need to be looking at ways that we can regenerate our urban condition and capitalise on the infrastructure that’s already there as opposed to continuing to always spread further west,” he said.
He said there was potential to market Broadmeadow as Newcastle’s answer to Sydney Olympic Park.
“I definitely think the sporting precinct would be a leverage tool or a marketing device to attract residents to that part of the world,” he said.