Cessnock City Council will call on the NSW Government to build a new access road to Cessnock Correctional Centre on Kerlew Street, Nulkaba.
The complex’s inmate population is set to increase by 50 percent in the coming weeks, after the opening of a 400-bed prison there on January 30.
Corrective Services NSW’s expansion plans for the Cessnock complex also include an extra 330 maximum security beds, and a new 280-bed minimum security facility, meaning it will eventually be home to about 1800 inmates.
The plans were met with criticism from nearby residents, who were concerned about the impact the extra traffic would have on their neighbourhood – particularly Lindsay Street, the jail’s sole public access road.
Following public pressure, Corrective Services NSW announced in November 2016 that it has committed to a new entry for the jail and planned to submit a development application in early 2017.
More than a year later, Corrective Services NSW is continuing to consult with Cessnock City Council to examine all options for future access to the site.
A department spokesperson said the community consultative committee meeting on February 1 was advised that Kerlew Street is being considered as an alternative access road and options are being investigated.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said council has made it a priority to secure a commitment on an alternate access road to the centre.
“A resolution and decision on alternative access to the centre needs to be a priority and we need to see works undertaken quickly as the facility is now operational,” he said.
“I will continue to work with Corrective Services NSW to advocate for our community and secure a positive outcome that meets our community expectations.”
The council made the decision to push for the new road on Kerlew Street at Wednesday night’s meeting, when a notice of motion regarding funding for Mount View Road was tabled by independent councillor Ian Olsen.
Cr Olsen moved that council reinstate $258,000 to the upgrade of Mount View Road, which it had deferred in 2017 in order to wait for the state government to provide a new access road to the jail.
“At this point in time, they (the state government) haven’t made a decision – how long do we have to wait?” he said.
“Mount View Road is used for a lot more than just the correctional centre. There’s Mount View High, Vineyard Grove, the Vines, the Basin, the golf club, tourists, people who live on Hospital Hill, people who use the caravan park and the showground.
“It is one of the busiest roads in Cessnock that is not a main road.
“The longer we wait, the worse it will get.”
But Cr Olsen’s notice of motion was amended and passed, after Labor councillor Jay Suvaal moved that council should reaffirm its position to not upgrade Mount View Road until the state government has constructed alternate access to the jail, and that council should call on the government to quickly confirm and construct such access on Kerlew Street, Nulkaba.
“We should be able to be out there celebrating the hundreds of new jobs, but the access roads need to be taken out of the back streets,” Cr Suvaal said.