SOME 400 homes are being planned on Defence Department land either side of the Stockton Centre, increasing the likelihood that it, too, will be developed for housing after closure.
While the NSW government will not comment on the future of the Stockton Centre site, the Defence Housing Australia proposals for Fort Wallace and the former Fern Bay rifle range each provide for "potential future links into the Stockton Centre site".
Asked for comment, a defence housing spokesperson said its proposals had "nothing to do with the pending closure of the Stockton Centre.
Planning documents from 2016 and 2017 describe up to 100 homes on the 32-hectare Fort Wallace site, with as many as 250 dwellings proposed for the 111-hectare rifle range.
But in its most recent statements, the Commonwealth-run housing authority is proposing "approximately 400 lots across both sites".
"DHA will retain a portion of the lots to build homes for Defence, while surplus land will be sold to the public," the authority said recently.
It proposes a mixture of housing sizes and types, and plans to showcase, where possible, the military heritage of the sites.
DHA said Newcastle City Council had approved a rezoning of Fort Wallace on March 26, while the corresponding application for the rifle range was still before Port Stephens Council.
Critics of the Stockton Centre's closure have long feared the landmark 84-hectare site would be sold for housing - precluding any future use as a disability centre should major problems emerge down the track with the "group home" model of care.
Family and Community Services said this week that it had "no comment to make on the future use of the Stockton site as its focus is entirely on sensitively transferring the residents to their new homes".
Although it will not comment on Stockton, the state is planning a major residential and tourism development on Peat Island, a former asylum on the Hawkesbury River near the M1 road bridge between Brooklyn and Mooney Mooney.
Peat Island, run by the same department as the Stockton, Kanangra and Tomaree disability centres until its closure in 2010, was transferred to Property NSW, the agency that disposes of surplus crown land.
Although the island covers only 8.8 hectares, the state owns the adjoining land across the M1 to the village of Mooney Mooney, allowing for up to 450 new dwellings and a range of recreational facilities, including a marina.
Property NSW says the development will open Peat Island to the public for the first time in a century.
On the 8.8-hectare Tomaree Lodge, Family and Community Services (FACS) says the land will be transferred to the Environment Department.
FACS says a land-use strategy is being developed for the site to "supplement the government's commitment" to the 20-kilometre "Tomaree coastal walk" between the Tomaree and Birubi headlands.
Morisset Hospital, which houses the Kanangra Centre, is also on waterfront land, a 1200-hectare parcel in the south-western corner of Lake Macquarie.
NSW Health also runs psychiatric and mental health services from the grounds, housing about 200 people including those in the 30-bed Kestrel Unit for civilian and forensic (criminal) patients with "severe and enduring mental health problems".
It is considered an unlikely housing site while the psychiatric units remain.
'RESTRICT' ACCESS TO NORTH STOCKTON BEACH, SAYS ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT
GIVEN the erosion at the southern end of Stockton Beach, some people had seen the Fort Wallace housing proposal as a chance for better public access to the beach, further up the bight.
A recent report to Newcastle City Council quoted submissions calling for better access at North Stockton as the southern end "erodes away".
"North Stockton Beach currently has poor amenity and access, with fencing to keep out the public."
Another writer said the water behind Fort Wallace was a popular surfing spot, and that a car park should be considered.
But a Newcastle City Council report said the Office of Environment and Heritage wanted access to the beach "restricted".
"Limiting and formalising one access point for walking purposes is proposed to manage any potential negative impacts," the report said, adding that one beach access was "a positive outcome" because there were none now.
The housing authority is yet to lodge Development Applications for Fort Wallace and the rifle range.
It says it hopes to have "housing delivered" at Fort Wallace in late 2021 and the rifle range in late 2022.