Cessnock City Council to address correctional centre access road at extraordinary meeting on August 5

SAFETY CONCERNS: Nulkaba residents Malcolm Hall and Karen Shearer at the site of the proposed new entry road to Cessnock Correctional Centre.
SAFETY CONCERNS: Nulkaba residents Malcolm Hall and Karen Shearer at the site of the proposed new entry road to Cessnock Correctional Centre.

Cessnock City Council has been given one more chance to consider moving the entry to the town's correctional centre out of Lindsay Street.

The Department of Corrections' preferred and final option for a new access road via Kerlew Street, Nulkaba will once again be put forward for council's endorsement at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday evening.

It comes after corrections minister Anthony Roberts withdrew the offer for the new access road in March, when council requested a suite of mitigation measures be added to that option to protect the Nulkaba residents' safety, security and amenity.

Council representatives including the mayor and general manager have since met with the minister to redress the issue, offering their support for Corrections' option (known as Option 3A).

Mr Roberts responded in writing last week, outlining his concerns about council's communication and "political interference".

He said a meeting with Cessnock MP Clayton Barr prompted him to reconsider for the sake of the people of Lindsay Street and surrounds, who were blindsided by the news that the entrance would remain in their neighbourhood.

"I do not feel that the Lindsay Street residents should be punished without further opportunity for council to reconsider Option 3A and its positive impact holistically on all residents of both Lindsay Street and Nulkaba," Mr Roberts said.

The scope of works that will be presented for council's endorsement include construction of a new access road connecting the jail's existing internal road network to Occident Street, Nulkaba and palisade-type fencing to neighbouring properties; but it would not include the reconstruction of Kerlew Street; any traffic calming, signage or road closures in Nulkaba; or intersection works at Wine Country Drive.

The residents' group known as Green Option Access wanted the intersection of Kerlew and Occident Street changed to allow for left-turn in, right-turn out only access to the prison (to prevent rat-runs through their neighbourhood), security fencing and screening for nearby properties, and an upgrade at the intersection of Kerlew Street and Wine Country Drive.

BUSY: Nulkaba residents including Malcolm Hall and Karen Shearer (pictured) are concerned about the impacts the prison traffic will have on the already-busy Wine Country Drive.

BUSY: Nulkaba residents including Malcolm Hall and Karen Shearer (pictured) are concerned about the impacts the prison traffic will have on the already-busy Wine Country Drive.

Green Option Access spokesperson Malcolm Hall said the minister's response is disappointing news for Nulkaba.

"I don't see how anyone could agree this is fair and reasonable," he said.

"We don't want it in Lindsay Street either; we accepted it coming up Kerlew Street as long as they put in measures to stop the rat-run.

"They (the State Government) have spent $1.8 billion on extending the jail, but they can't even spend a bit extra - maybe a couple of hundred thousand - to look after the community."

As the prison expansion was financially completed in the 2019/20 financial year, the minister asked the Department of Corrections to reconsider what scope it may be able to progress through the reprioritisation of its capital funds this financial year, noting the "current fiscal conditions" of the government.

The scope of works would also include upgrading the road pavement to the Kerlew Street intersection; swale stormwater drainage, road lighting, a signage wall and emergency gates, and updated wayfinding signage throughout Cessnock.

Council has been calling for the closure of the Lindsay Street entrance since the NSW Government announced the correctional complex expansion project in 2016.

Corrective Services NSW made a commitment in November that year that it would construct a new entry to the prison.

Mr Barr said he was pleased the minister has brought the offer back to the table.

"I really appreciate that our community has another opportunity to get an outcome and I look forward to the deliberations of council," he said.

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said council appreciates the consultation with the Minister, and that they "will continue to consult to get the best outcome for the entrance to the Cessnock Correctional Centre".

Mavis Street resident John Sharples said he was relieved to hear the new access road was being reconsidered.

"People in the neighbourhood are getting quite sick of the traffic," he said.

"I'll have my fingers crossed for a positive outcome."

General manager Lotta Jackson will recommend at Wednesday's meeting that council supports and accepts the proposed scope of Option 3A.

"It is proposed that Council accepts the proposed scope and scope clarifications as required by the Minister in the correspondence," Ms Jackson's report says.

"Council's Infrastructure Unit will work closely with the Corrective Services NSW and NSW Public Works Advisory team to ascertain the anticipated traffic movements to and from the Correctional Centre access.

"The aim is to ensure that any reconstruction of Kerlew Street by Council, including work that may be required at its intersection with Occident Street, traffic calming, or signage, are designed to suit the identified traffic demand and delivered with minimal impacts.

"Council's Infrastructure Unit will also liaise with Transport for NSW, to identify traffic impacts on Wine Country Drive and any works that may be required at its intersection with Kerlew Street."

The council has only been meeting on the third Wednesday of the month since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, but this item has been expedited to an extraordinary meeting on August 5 ensure a "timely response" to the minister.

The meeting will be conducted online due to COVID-19 restrictions. It will be livestreamed on council's Facebook page from 5.15pm.

(CORRECTION: The original version of this story said the meeting will be held at 6.30pm.)

ACCESS: Occident Street, via Kerlew Street, is Corrective Services preferred option for the new access to Cessnock Correctional Centre, but residents fear, without mitigation measures, that it could create rat-runs through Nulkaba.

ACCESS: Occident Street, via Kerlew Street, is Corrective Services preferred option for the new access to Cessnock Correctional Centre, but residents fear, without mitigation measures, that it could create rat-runs through Nulkaba.

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