STATE development authority UrbanGrowth is urging the government to permit development on at least part of the Newcastle rail corridor that will be left vacant after the heavy rail is truncated, sources say.
With the heavy rail between Newcastle and Wickham set to be permanently closed on December 26, the powerful authority that was put in charge of the project – and is a partner in the Newcastle East End mixed redevelopment – is said to be eyeing up nearby land in the corridor in the vicinity of the current Newcastle railway station building.
Asked on Thursday whether it has put more residential or commercial development on the government’s radar, an UrbanGrowth spokeswoman said only: ‘‘No decisions have been made on how the rail corridor land will be used’’.
It is understood a separate proposal is for the Hunter Development Corporation to manage the land after the rail lines are removed.
When the government first announced plans to truncate the rail line in 2012, it ruled out use of the corridor for anything other than public space or new transport modes.
But since deciding on a light rail corridor that traverses only about half of the heavy rail corridor, it has left open the door to some development while rubbishing suggestions of high rise.
‘‘It makes no sense to take down the dingo fence and replace it with a Berlin Wall of buildings,’’ Planning Minister Pru Goward said in June.
With less than two months to go before the rail line is closed, the government’s plans for the land remain under wraps.
A spokesman for Ms Goward said on Wednesday that UrbanGrowth was ‘‘continuing to work with key stakeholders and the Newcastle community on the urban renewal plan for Newcastle city centre’’.
UrbanGrowth was made the lead agency on several major urban renewal projects, including Newcastle’s, early this year, to hasten the delivery of new housing and jobs and attract investment.
It has a two-thirds stake in the East End redevelopment with the GPT Group.
Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper has introduced a bill that would limit development of the rail corridor to cafes, passive recreation, landscaping and transport, providing for such uses as cycleways and public art installations. But government backing needed to secure its passage through the lower house has not been forthcoming. Labor has not lent its support either.
Mr Piper had planned to bring on the bill on Thursday but is continuing to discuss it with the government.
The Property Council, a private sector industry group, recently told a parliamentary inquiry looking at the rail truncation decision that it believes the corridor should be retained as public space and construction of any commercial building in the corridor ‘‘is simply not viable’’.