St Philip's Christian College application for roundabout on Wine Country Drive recommended for refusal by Cessnock City Council

UPGRADE NEEDED: St Philip's Christian College Cessnock principal Darren Cox outside the school on Wine Country Drive on Monday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars
UPGRADE NEEDED: St Philip's Christian College Cessnock principal Darren Cox outside the school on Wine Country Drive on Monday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

A proposed solution to the traffic issues at St Philip’s Christian College, Cessnock will be recommended for refusal at Wednesday night’s Cessnock City Council meeting.

The school submitted a development application for a roundabout on Wine Country Drive (opposite the new service station that is under construction).

The roundabout would provide a second entrance-and-exit to the 1200-student school in the hope of alleviating the gridlock on the corner of Lomas Lane and Wine Country Drive  – currently its sole access point.

The application for the roundabout is not supported by council staff, with concerns over the safety impacts, traffic flow efficiency, and an objection by Roads and Maritime Services among the reasons for refusal.

St Philip’s Cessnock principal Darren Cox said the school takes a proactive approach to safety, has implemented earlier starting and finishing times, and manages its own traffic on-site.

Mr Cox said the second access point would ease the congestion at the corner of Lomas Lane and Wine Country Drive, particularly for drivers turning right out of Lomas Lane towards Pokolbin, Lovedale and Branxton.

“We are putting it (the roundabout) forward because that corner is a safety risk,” he said.

“We’ve made everyone aware there’s an issue, and we are trying to solve it.

“We are talking about the safety of young people.”

Mr Cox said the roundabout would complement the entry to the service station across the road.

It would be located within the road reserve of Wine Country Drive, with the remainder – including the vehicle access points – located on land owned by the school.

The school would provide the funds for the project.

As Wine Country Drive is a State road, the project would need a works authorisation deed from the RMS.

According to the report by council’s development services manager Janine McCarthy, RMS has formally objected to the proposed roundabout for a number of reasons, including its suitability, adverse impact on the safety and efficiency of Wine Country Drive, design, pedestrian and road user safety and consideration for the integration and relocation of existing utilities and services.

Ms McCarthy’s report says while it is open to council to approve the application, it is likely that the applicant would be unable to act on any such approval, as it would require separate approval from the RMS, which has indicated its “strong objection” to the project.

CONCERNS: St Philip's Christian College Cessnock principal Darren Cox observes the traffic on Lomas Lane on Monday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

CONCERNS: St Philip's Christian College Cessnock principal Darren Cox observes the traffic on Lomas Lane on Monday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Mr Cox said a second access point was part of the school’s approved masterplan and financial plan, and that it would fund the project.

“The council and the RMS should be thanking us,” he said.

“We are not asking for a cent.

“I struggle to comprehend why we are protecting an area of bitumen over the safety of people’s lives.”

He said the secondary entry would provide a more appropriate access point for the community and sporting groups the school partners with, including Pokolbin Rugby Club and Nulkaba parkrun, and the users of its soon-to-open sports centre.

“We’ve got hundreds of people driving through the school property every weekend,” he said.

Mr Cox said if the roundabout is rejected, the school had other options, including another exit further south on Wine Country Drive – but that would involve building another kilometre of internal roads on the school property.

Early last year St Philip’s raised the traffic issues with RMS, which suggested the school “consider on-site management to help alleviate traffic congestion”.

Cessnock Council wrote to RMS in May 2017 to request a school zone be installed on Wine Country Drive.

Councillor Di Fitzgibbon brought the issue back to the table at council’s April 18 meeting, asking that council write to roads minister Melinda Pavey and the RMS to request an “urgent review” of safety and traffic conditions on Wine Country Drive.

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