UrbanGrowth NSW has lodged a rezoning proposal for Newcastle that will pave the way for the former heavy rail corridor to be transformed into public parks, a plaza and a range of new developments.
The proposal forms part of the initial stages of a $500-million-plus plan to revitalize Newcastle’s city centre.
The proposal prepared by UrbanGrowth NSW, Transport for NSW and Hassell covers 4.25 hectares of the dormant rail line from Worth Place to the former Newcastle station. Around half the space will be rezoned from rail infrastructure to public space, including two new green spaces and a new urban plaza, while the remainder of the corridor will be rezoned for a mix of retail, commercial and residential uses. The section west of Worth Place to the Wickham Transport Interchange will be used for light rail. The plans also show the light rail running along Hunter Street and Scott Street into the city centre.
“The planning proposal is a response to the community’s desire to see a contemporary waterfront city emerge from the urban transformation program,” said Michael Cassel, director of the NSW Government’s Newcastle Urban Transformation and Transport Program.
The proposal also includes plans to improve the public domain with more pedestrian and vehicle connections, increased links between waterfront and city and the revitalization of Hunter Street.
The proposal will go to Newcastle City Council as well as the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for assessment, which is expected to take around 12 months.
In the meantime, UrbanGrowth NSW will give the community an opportunity to contribute ideas towards the design of two major precincts adjacent to Newcastle and Civic Stations later this year. Local architecture students will also be engaged in a design studio to develop schemes for a section of the rail corridor in the second semester this year.
The closure of the end of the Newcastle rail corridor was first announced in December 2012 by the then-NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard. The rail line west of Wickham, which runs into the city centre, was to be replaced by a proposed light rail. The decision sparked controversy and backlash from local residents. The group Save Our Rail NSW launched legal action against the NSW government in an effort to stop the closure but was unsuccessful. In October 2015, the NSW parliament passed legislation to enable the removal of the rail lines.