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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Strategy opens up Hunter Expressway opportunities

After working closely with both Cessnock City and Maitland City councils to create a suitable plan, the NSW Government is now inviting residents to have their say on a draft Hunter Expressway Strategy.

The proposal – which centres around interchanges at Branxton; Newcastle; Kurri Kurri and Loxford; Allandale; and Buchanan – has been developed to help deliver a vision for the Hunter to be the leading regional economy in Australia, with a vibrant metropolitan Newcastle at its heart.

The Hunter Expressway is a $1.7 billion, 40km stretch of motorway connecting communities across the region and links into the national transport and freight network between Queensland, Yohaaba/Port of Newcastle, Greater Sydney and Western NSW.

The latest strategy also identifies the types of land uses that will be suitable for each area, according to Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen, optimising investment and employment opportunities from Branxton to Newcastle.

“By planning out strategically, which areas are suitable for what uses in collaboration with councils, we can streamline and speed up the assessment process for developments at each of the interchanges,” he explained.

“Branxton Interchange – the gateway to the region’s wine and tourist district – will be the prime location for housing, employment and services in the Upper Hunter.

“Newcastle’s Interchange at the cross section of the Hunter Expressway and Pacific Highway is focused on growing and new communities to the east of the highway, while the west is national park and nature reserves.

“Kurri Kurri and Loxford Interchanges will see employment land prioritised.

“Allandale Interchange will be home to a new community, while Buchanan Interchange and onwards through John Renshaw Drive is the designated heavy vehicle freight link to the Port of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport.

“Importantly, no new rezonings will progress unless they align with this strategy or a local council’s strategy that has been endorsed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment or Transport for NSW.”

Residents have until 11.59pm on Friday 26 February to express their views.

* Download the draft Hunter Expressway Strategy

* Make a submission online using the form (in this link)

* Or email your submission to [email protected]

For more information about the draft Hunter Expressway Strategy and Hunter Regional Plan, visit the webpage at www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/draft-hunter-expressway

Hunter Expressway Strategy

Branxton Interchange:

Branxton is situated on the north side of the expressway and the developing town of Huntlee is on the southern side. Huntlee will become the primary location for housing, employment and services within this part of the region and will include a new Town Centre, including core retail, commercial and bulky goods use. As the area grows, the centres will retain their unique but complementary identity. Detailed planning for the current Branxton town centre has been undertaken to capitalise on the amenity improvements to the main street as a result of the redirection of heavy freight onto the Hunter Expressway. The substantial planning that has been undertaken for this area provides a clear framework for the large amount of growth and change that is expected at the western end of Hunter Expressway.

Newcastle Interchange:

The Newcastle Interchange is surrounded by current and developing urban land on the eastern side and ecologically important and steep land on the western side. Retention of land on the western side of the motorway as E1 National Parks and Nature Reserves is consistent with the strategic directions of the Hunter Regional Plan 2036 and Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036. Opportunities to manage connectivity will be prioritised as the existing zoned land develops. Development at the Newcastle Interchange will also need to consider the nexus with growth at the Beresfield-Black Hill and North West Lake Macquarie Catalyst Areas.

The Hunter Expressway interchange at Kurri Kurri. Photo: Peter Stoop

Kurri Kurri and Loxford Interchanges:

The Kurri Kurri interchange has favourable land situated immediately adjoining the full interchange/ junction on the key north-south access and identified growth corridor linking the strategic centres of Cessnock and Maitland. This represents a logical urban extension to the existing strategic centre Kurri Kurri and Heddon Greta leveraging the connectivity to the expressway. By combining and consolidating development around the Kurri Kurri and Loxford interchanges, they become a regionally significant area, creating the critical mass and trading hub building on the complementary nature of the two development precincts. In addition, the interchanges incorporate renewal and repurposing of the former Hydro aluminium smelter and links the existing Urban Release Areas in the Kurri Kurri Corridor situated in proximity to the interchange. This maximises the locational advantages and existing infrastructure capacity, tertiary education (TAFE) and community services centred on these existing centres. Proposed residential development will need to be designed in a manner that is compatible with proposed employment land which will include uses requiring 24-hour operations. It provides the opportunity to better integrate transport and land use in this area, while maintaining the Hunter Expressway’s function in the National Road Freight Network. The upgrade to Loxford interchange to a full interchange will likely be required as future development occurs nearby.

Allandale Interchange:

Allandale Interchange is the eastern gateway to the Hunter wine and tourist district and will accommodate development at the former Greta Migrant Camp. This is proposed to operate as a boutique product, rather than competing with housing choices available in the existing settlements in this part of the region. This half interchange is relatively remote from existing centres and employment land. It is expected to be primarily used to service future development at Greta Migrant Camp although its use to service growing residential release areas in Lochinvar will need to be monitored. The rural setting of this interchange provides amenity to the Hunter Valley vineyards district and is not proposed to change further in the long term.

Buchanan Interchange:

Buchanan Interchange and onwards through John Renshaw Drive is the designated heavy vehicle freight link to Yohaaba/Port of Newcastle and Newcastle Airport. This interchange is of critical importance to the efficiency of the national road freight route in this location and provides a flood free access. Controlled intersections will be required for new development along the John Renshaw Drive to the north of the interchange. Its use, in the long term, for freight and logistics at the interchange represents a logical and orderly staging and expansion of the Beresfield-Black Hill Catalyst Area. Future investigations will consider Buchanan interchange’s locational advantages as part of the broader road transport network as well as relevant economic drivers influencing employment land in the Hunter region. Until that time the rural setting of the interchange is not expected to change. Flooding constraints and biodiversity values will influence development opportunities.