University of Newcastle's new Honeysuckle campus design actively discourages students and staff from travelling by car

Artists Impression: Elevated view of Campus Heart from Honeysuckle Drive
Artists Impression: Elevated view of Campus Heart from Honeysuckle Drive

Newcastle’s parking squeeze will tighten further, with the University of Newcastle proposing to create only a dozen new parking spaces at its new Honeysuckle campus development that will attract up to 6500 students and staff when complete.

Parking tensions across the city are increasing as many commuters struggle to adjust to the loss of hundreds of parking spots, including two major car parks, in the past 12 months.

Controversy erupted four years ago when the university created five parking spaces for its NeWSpace building, which caters for about 3000 students at peak times.

Planning documents presently on public exhibition for the state significant development reveal a similar strategy has been adopted for the Honeysuckle campus.

“The parking strategy for the Honeysuckle CBD Campus has taken a similar approach to the parking strategy at NeWSpace, with the intention to support active and public transport modes,” the campus concept plan says.

“The concept plan has made allowance onsite for a total of 12 parking spaces for the following users: Mobility impaired, 3, Visiting lecturers and senior staff, 3, University operations vehicles, 6.”

A master plan submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment is for a staged project over more than 10 years comprising about seven buildings.

The university expects to submit a development application for stage one, a $25 million innovation hub, in the near future and start building next year.

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The concept master plan suggests up to 6500 staff and students may be connected with the initial stages of the development which provides for the faculties of creative arts and education as well as student accommodation for up to 400 beds.

Later stages are undefined but may see between 5000 and 6000 people engaged with the campus in some way or other.

A University of Newcastle spokeswoman told the Herald that parking and transport in urban areas were complex issues and the university did not want to contribute to congestion by encouraging more cars to come into the CBD. 

“The University supports a vision for Newcastle as a city of the future – one that embraces a range of sustainable transport options such as active travel, public transport, ride-sharing, and park and ride from our Callaghan campus,” she said.  

The spokeswoman said it was important to recognise that the Honeysuckle site was a staged development that would evolve over many years. 

“Our immediate development is only one small part of the longer term vision expressed in the master plan.  At each development stage, we will work with stakeholders and the community to review and adjust our integrated transport strategy,” she said.

“In regards to our immediate development plans, we do not anticipate any disruption to transport services in the CBD during the enabling works for the first stage of the project, as these works will be primarily contained within the footprint of the site and as such the location of these initial works should cause minimal disruption on parking in the CBD.”

The university’s Parking and Transport Assessment for the new campus predicts that about 66 per cent of staff and students are expected to live in the suburbs surrounding the city. As such they are likely to walk, cycle and use light rail or alternate public transport to commute to the site.

“The opportunity to live and study within a city campus includes an expectation by students that there shall be quality transport opportunities to support this. Such transport opportunities are not expected to include the need to own vehicles and to park (possibly with associated cost), the strategy says.

“Living in Newcastle sees opportunities for students to work within the city and immediate surrounds, further reinforcing the opportunity  to have a city-centric lifestyle which is not reliant on private vehicle ownership to be able to get around.”

Honeysuckle campus development

Honeysuckle campus development

The concept plan cites the Newcastle City Centre Parking Strategy, which indentified 2500 parking spaces within the CBD during peak demand period with a 78 per cent occupancy rate.

“...the city’s parking capacity has been determined as being adequate to provide for its future requirements along with the strategies to encourage public transport and active transport modes over vehicle travel,” a parking and transport assessment for the campus notes.

For those living further afield, public transport or Newcastle City Council’s park and ride service, which operates from Hunter Stadium, are suggested as options.

A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman said the council was involved in discussions with the university about many elements of the Honeysuckle campus design, including the provision of car parking.

“While we want to ensure that new development includes adequate car parking, we also want to see people moving about our city in a different way by using bus, rail and ferry transport and in the very near future light rail,” the spokeswoman said.