News that the NSW Government may close the Lindsay Street entrance to Cessnock Correctional Centre when the jail is expanded is a positive sign for the community.
It means that the government is taking on board the concerns raised by local residents when the expansion plans were announced.
The expansion would make Cessnock the state’s largest prison, with a population of 1800 maximum and minimum security inmates.
The impact on local roads and infrastructure were among the concerns raised by local residents at a community meeting at Cessnock Leagues Club in August.
Some residents were not hopeful after that meeting, when they were told the near-doubling of the prison was planned “cart before the horse”, without any major upgrades to nearby roads, police or health facilities.
So the revelations by Fairfax Media that the government may back down on certain aspects of the plan comes as a pleasant surprise.
If the jail’s entrance is relocated as predicted, it would relieve Lindsay Street and nearby streets of the extra vehicles.
Most would argue the traffic to the jail is already too much for the suburban streets to take.
However, a win for Lindsay Street and its surrounding streets could, of course, be a loss for other residents on the jail’s boundaries.
Whatever the decision, care must be taken to ensure people living near any proposed new entrance are impacted as little as possible.
The proximity of the new 400-bed maximum security wing to nearby homes and the impact of lights and noise were also among the community’s concerns.
Upgrades to local infrastructure including the road network, the police station, hospital and social services are paramount.
The Review of Environmental Factors report will be released on Thursday.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr is hopeful the community uproar has been taken into account and that the government will reach a “sensible compromise”.
There’s no doubt the jail has been an important part of Cessnock’s economy for the past four decades.
The positives of the expansion cannot be forgotten – more than 800 jobs (450 during construction and 430 new permanent positions), the majority of which will be advertised locally.
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