Cessnock City Council endorses amended mayoral minute about correctional centre access road

ALTERNATE OPTION: Nulkaba residents at the rear of the cemetery, where the residents group proposes the jail access road should be built.
ALTERNATE OPTION: Nulkaba residents at the rear of the cemetery, where the residents group proposes the jail access road should be built.

The situation is far from resolved, but signs are looking promising that the new Cessnock Correctional Centre access route will have minimal impact on local residences - including the village of Nulkaba.

A full gallery attended Wednesday night's Cessnock City Council meeting, applauding when an amended mayoral minute addressing the issue was unanimously supported, taking on board the Nulkaba residents' group's feedback and concerns about the NSW Government's preferred entrance via Kerlew Street and Occident Street.

Residents fear this entrance will create "rat-runs" through their village, and their favoured option remains via Calvary/Department of Health land off Wine Country Drive (an option that has been ruled 'unviable' by the government due to right of access and the impact on Health infrastructure and the aged care facility).

But failing that, the residents' group would like to see the new entry built through woodland at the rear of the cemetery, with Kerlew Street to be closed past that point (to prevent rat-runs), and with security fencing and screening provided.

Craig Findley - who spoke on behalf of the residents' group - said the local road network cannot accommodate the increase in traffic, as was shown when Kerlew Street was used as temporary access late last year (while the Lindsay Street entrance underwent repairs).

Mr Findley said a peak of 501 vehicle movements was recorded during this time - a great increase considering only 10 residences are located on Kerlew Street.

Mr Findley said anti-social behaviour was also experienced during this time, and the proximity of such behaviour to a school and preschool was of great concern.

"The solution suggested by Corrections merely transfers all of the current problems from Lindsay Street to Nulkaba," he said.

Council is calling the Department of Corrections to ensure the new access route is isolated from the local road network, with minimal traffic on council-maintained roads, minimal impact on private residences before it adjoins the state road network, and that safe access is maintained where it joins the state road network.

While council reaffirmed its preferred option for the entrance is also through Health land off Wine Country Drive (a state road), it asked general manager Lotta Jackson to engage with the Department of Corrections about a route via Wine Country Drive, with the alternate option that was put forward by the residents group to be included in these discussions.

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent praised the residents for their efforts and hoped it would result in a positive outcome with minimal impact on local roads and residences.

"The last thing this council wants is the community of Nulkaba interrupted by traffic from the correctional centre," he said.

"The ambience of of Nulkaba needs to be maintained."

Mr Findley was pleased with the outcome of Wednesday's meeting.

"We know it's only a step in the process - council is not necessarily the ending consent authority - but now we can approach the state government with unanimous support of council and have a better footing," he said.

A report will be presented to council when the design is complete.

The 1000-bed expansion project at the correctional centre is nearly complete, with the final stage of the project - a 280-bed minimum security facility - due to be opened mid-year.

The expansion is part of the NSW Government's $3.8 billion Prison Bed Capacity Program, a four-year program that was announced in the 2016-17 budget.

ACCESS: Occident Street, via Kerlew Street has been flagged as a potential new access point for Cessnock Correctional Centre, but residents fear it could create rat-runs through Nulkaba.

ACCESS: Occident Street, via Kerlew Street has been flagged as a potential new access point for Cessnock Correctional Centre, but residents fear it could create rat-runs through Nulkaba.

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