Newcastle City Council planning staff have raised serious doubts about the transport and parking strategy for the University of Newcastle’s Honeysuckle campus development, labeling significant parts of the plan to be of “significant concern”.
Staff are concerned that the proposal, which includes providing 12 car parking places for 6500 students, has been been developed without evidence to show that it can work.
“While the City of Newcastle supports initiatives for use of sustainable modes of travel and understands that change is essential for long term prospects for the city, applying the yet unproven NewSpace transport strategy to the Honeysuckle City Campus Development and the provision of only 12 “specialised’ parking spaces is a significant concern,” the council’s submission to the Department of Planning says.
“In addition, despite the emphasis on alternative modes of transport, the strategy has not considered in detail the provision of motorbike or bicycle parking on the campus.”
The university’s Parking and Transport Assessment is based on the prediction that about two thirds of staff and students will live in the suburbs surrounding the city. As such they are likely to walk, cycle and use light rail or alternate public transport to commute to the site.
“The opportunity to live and study within a city campus includes an expectation by students that there shall be quality transport opportunities to support this. Such transport opportunities are not expected to include the need to own vehicles and to park (possibly with associated cost),” the university’s strategy says.
But the council’s submission pours cold water on the utopian vision, describing it as ‘unrealistic’.
“It is argued that there are 2500 surplus car parking spaces in the city centre,” the submission says.
“The provision of the Newcastle Light Rail system and other developments in the city centre has had a significant impact on the number of available car parking spaces.”
“Furthermore, such parking is unlikely to be suitable for use by students due to costing and time restrictions. As a result it is anticipated the development will have adverse impacts on the availability of on-street parking in the City Centre and adjoining residential suburbs.”
Council staff also noted that access to public transport within the greater Newcastle catchment was relatively poor. As such, future public transport predictions should not automatically be based on those in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
The State Government is the consent authority for the state significant development.
Former Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy told The Herald last month the university’s parking plan was a ‘recipe for disaster’ and a “social experiment against the car”
He said the university should be required to provide at least 1000 parking spaces to be compliant with planning regulations.
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said the council supported the proposal to establish a campus at Honeysuckle.
“This development aligns with Civic precinct's rise as a thriving educational and cultural hub under strategic plans supported by all levels of government and the smart city vision adopted by the elected council in July last year,” he said.
The spokesman said the council’s submission offered comment on a range of issues for consideration by the department.
“We would like to see a comprehensive evidence-based transport and parking strategy and trust that these matters will be considered by the Department of Planning and UoN as part of the assessment process,” he said.
A University of Newcastle spokeswoman said the university was generally pleased with the level of engagement and support that the project had received to date.
“Since commencing the planning process for the Honeysuckle City Campus Development, we have actively consulted the community, the City of Newcastle and other relevant authorities,” the spokeswoman said.
“In line with the City of Newcastle’s approach to promoting sustainable travel modes in the CBD, we remain committed to a transport strategy anchored on active and public transport.”
“Following the period of Public Exhibition of the Concept Plan, we are currently preparing our response to the Department of Planning and Environment, where key points of feedback, including transport and parking, will be addressed.”