Vineyard Grove and Mavis Street residents object to Cessnock Correctional Complex expansion proposal

When Vineyard Grove residents Gary and Helen Johnson walk outside their home they are welcomed by the sounds of birds chirping.

But it will be the sounds of jailbirds that they will hear if the proposed expansion of Cessnock Correctional Centre goes ahead.

The proposal involves an additional 1000 beds, made up of 320 maximum security beds in four two-storey buildings, 280 minimum security beds in four two-storey buildings and a 400 bed (at least) maximum security facility.

The Johnson’s home is located in Drayton Grove, about 140 metres from where the 400 bed facility has been earmarked for.

Mr Johnson has written to various ministers in objection, saying the new building will create severe noise and lighting issues for nearby residents, especially as he said nearby trees have already been marked for removal.

“The positioning of this proposed correctional facility provides almost zero buffer zone between the proposed 400 plus bed facility and the residents of Vineyard Grove,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the development will also impact on housing prices in Vineyard Grove, which up until now has been a “valued real estate location.”

Mr Johnson said he is not against expansion of the prison, he just believed the 400 bed facility should be built up near the existing prison, away from the residents.

“I understand they need to expand, but [the location] is just dumb to me,” he said.

“There’s no real reason that I can see that they need to build so close to the residents.

“There is a good way to do it and I don’t think they’ve followed that best practice model.”

Mr and Mrs Johnson’s daughter Danielle Codd lives in Mavis Street, and is also concerned about the development.

She said traffic and noise were already an issue between shift changeovers, visitation and inmates being released.

Ms Codd is also concerned about social impacts of the development, as she believed families of inmates would move to the area.

She would like to see the Lindsay Street access point blocked off, and entry diverted to a new proposed entrance on Oakey Creek Road.

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr will host a community meeting this Sunday in response to concerns about the proposed expansion.

Mr Barr’s announcement follows a decision by Corrections Minister David Elliott to extend the public consultation period by two weeks.

“A large number of residents have been in touch with my office, objecting not only to the proposal but also contending that there has been insufficient time given for community consultation,’’ Mr Barr said.

The public meeting will be held in the Cessnock Leagues Club auditorium from noon.

The letter sent to nearby residents regarding the proposed expansion of Cessnock Correctional Complex.