THE battle is over, but the war has not been lost.
After eight years of effort and $320,000 of his own money, Newcastle restaurateur Neil Slater has finally called time on his pursuit of creating an eatery, accommodation and a viewing area at Nobbys headland.
He explains his decision in an exclusive story in today's H2 cover story.
However, Newcastle Port Corporation, which manages the Nobbys Lighthouse site and surrounding headland property, has signalled its intention to proceed to development application approval with Newcastle City Council with plans for the site.
Newcastle Port Corporation chief Gary Webb said in a statement the development application "allows options for achieving the corporation's aims, including the provision of safe access for the public".
The corporation wrote to Mr Slater last month accepting his free offer of all intellectual property developed by his Nobbys Lighthouse Consortium and declaring that it would pursue a development application approval with the view that "an approved DA may assist to set the expectations of any potential commercial development in the future".
Despite extensive public support for his proposal, which included public access, viewing areas and historic displays, Mr Slater's plan was stopped at the last hurdle in May 2008 when Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts, rejected it.
Mr Garrett said the Slater plan would "significantly damage the heritage values of this Newcastle icon".
Mr Garrett's rejection went against conditional support for the project from the Minister's own departmental staff and full backing from Labor politicians, including MPs Sharon Grierson, Joel Fitzgibbon and Greg Combet as well as state MP Jodi McKay and Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate.
Mr Slater's decision to stop chasing the dream was based on economics and obstacles.
The passage of time and the required modifications (restaurant seating reduced from 80 to 50) had blown the financial model, he said.
His plans called for a five-star restaurant, eight-bedroom accommodation facility, interpretive heritage and history displays and public viewing area.
"The view from there is absolutely world-class," Mr Slater said.
Mr Slater's concept included the return to Newcastle of locally born chef Brett Graham from the one-star Michelin-rated restaurant The Ledbury in London.
"If I attempted it now, I would have been facing a loss of $300,000 a year," Mr Slater said.