Revitalising Newcastle – Planning to Fail

There is an old saying that failing to plan is planning to fail.

Sadly for Newcastle, despite enormous rhetoric, there is a distinct absence of planning.

I base this assertion on the latest release from the NSW Planning Minister – the Newcastle City Centre Visualisations.

These “visualisations” are made up of 4 artists impressions of a “redeveloped” City Centre. Lets look at each in detail.

Visualisation 1 – Newcastle Train Station – this visualisaiton shows this significant public land redeveloped as the STATION MARKETS. There is little detail of what is inside the markets, other than what seems a proliferation of yellow market umbrellas. Of significance is the depiction of a large new building on the site of the current bus station. What is this building for?

Visualisation 2 – Foreshore Park – this visualisation shows children playing in a new park located on the existing foreshore reserve to the east of the Queens Wharf complex. In the background, on what is currently Wharf Road, are a number of large grey blocks which depict new buildings roughly to the south east of Queens Wharf. What are these buildings for?

Visualisation 3 – Light Rail & Foreshore Connection – this visualization shows a light rail carriage on Hunter Street and a newly paved and landscaped open space connection where Civic Station is currently located. Again in the background, partially hidden by rows of palm trees, are grey blocks representing new buildings on the rail corridor.

Visualisation 4 – Aerial View – this visualisation shows the extent of new development envisaged by the State Government over the existing heavy rail line corridor and surrounds. These include:

 

  • a 5 storey building adjacent to Newcastle Station
  • a significant building on the corner of King and Newcomen Streets
  • 2 buildings of 6 and 7 storeys straddling the extension of Bolton Street on the rail corridor
  • a significant building on what looks to be the GPT site
  • more buildings to the west on the rail corridor.

 

There seems to be a lot of green space, however a lot of this is existing, just reconfigured or redeveloped.

As a Town Planner, I find the idea of releasing these Visualisations at odds with proper process and more akin to what Elizabeth Farrelly terms – planning as an upscale lolly hunt (SMH 17 December 2014).

What Newcastle needs is a detailed draft plan of how the Government proposes to use the rail corridor. This plan needs to be the subject of lengthy pubic consultation as this is a once in a generation opportunity for the City Centre.

Releasing pretty artists impressions is not planning.

It is fascinating that the Government chooses to call Revitalising Newcastle, the People’s Project. Unless there is some serious planning and consultation, these words will be nothing more than a hollow insult.

You can view the images and other documents here: http://revitalisingnewcastle.com.au/news.aspx