THE man behind plans for a $30 million motoring enthusiast resort park built on a former Lake Macquarie coal mine site, and modelled on a famous Spanish resort and driving track, said he was “not trying to build another Eastern Creek” in the Hunter.
Tony Palmer said his proposed Black Rock Motor Park on the old Rio Tinto Rhondda Colliery mine site at Wakefield would be “a bit like a golf resort, but for people who like cars”, and with “more of a welcoming environment than most racetracks”.
Lake Macquarie City Council is assessing the proposal for a 4km track, 20 short-stay villas, a 20-room lodge, training facilities, function centre, bars, cafes, a pit lane building for the open display of up to 60 cars and storage for up to 162 cars.
A report prepared for Mr Palmer’s company, Elemenop Pty Ltd, said there had been “close consultation” with Lake Macquarie Council since March, 2016 about the proposal for “Australia’s first dedicated recreation resort park for motoring enthusiasts”.
Mr Palmer, a former racing driver whose purchase of the former mine site is linked to the development application approval, said Black Rock would be modelled on the Ascari motoring enthusiast resort in a beautiful region in Spain.
But many Wakefield residents are outraged the project is being considered for the area, and say it was only by word of mouth they became aware of the proposed development.
“To suggest that local residents and those in surrounding suburbs will not be adversely impacted by noise emanating from a race track, operating 365 days per year in a bushland setting, is not only ludicrous, but frankly insulting,” said Clark Greedy, who said the project would be a “crushing blow to the rural community”.
His son Maclean said Wakefield, about 10 minutes from Edgeworth and Toronto, was “a sleepy little hamlet nestled in rural tranquillity” which would permanently change if the project is approved.
“This is proposed in a sensitive bushland setting which contradicts what Lake Macquarie Council has repeatedly asserted are its goals in terms of a green, environmentally-focused future,” Maclean Greedy said.
We don't want to be bad neighboursBlack Rock Motor Park proponent Tony Palmer
Wakefield resident Gareth Hawgood, who moved with his family to Wakefield in 2011, said the motor park “did not in any way fit with the area’s rural zoning”. A report prepared for Elemenop acknowledged the proposed development is “prohibited under the various zonings of the site”.
In a submission opposing the motor park Mr Hawgood noted the council in 2013 rejected a development application for a mechanic’s business to operate from a Wakefield property because it did not fit with the area’s rural zoning.
“Residents at this time all strongly opposed this and with the clear and unwavering support of Lake Macquarie Council the DA was rejected on all grounds,” Mr Hawgood said.
Mr Palmer said he was aware of the opposition but “We don’t want to be bad neighbours”.
He defended a description of the proposal as an ecotourist resort, saying it would be “open to not just people who like cars and bikes”.
It would host corporate driving events and launches, driving “experiences” in performance cars, public track days and driver training with dedicated facilities.
“I’ve got a passion for driver training, having lost my best mate when he was 17,” he said.
“We will have a private track where people can train, where cyclists can have time trials and events safe from cars, and where there will be facilities in a beautiful environment.”
He acknowledged that noise was “obviously going to be an issue” for a facility where up to 20 vehicles at a time could be driving on the track at speed, but said noise could be mitigated.
An economic assessment report found there was “potential for the development to be a catalyst for further, related development” and the proposal was an innovative re-use of a former mine site.
In questions to Elemenop on September 28 Lake Macquarie Council noted the project would “significantly impact on this local community, especially with regards to noise”.