A STALEMATE over the upgrade of a notorious Cooranbong intersection is threatening to stop further land releases at Lake Macquarie's largest new housing subdivision.
Developer Johnson Property Group (JPG) and Lake Macquarie City Council are locked in protracted negotiations over planned road works at the intersections of Alton and Central roads and Freemans Drive, near Avondale Shopping Village.
Residents have been campaigning for an upgrade of the intersections for more than a decade after an elderly man, Charles Pointon, was hit by a car and killed in 2008.
There are two aged care facilities on either side of Freemans Drive and no safe way for elderly people to cross the busy roads.
At the centre of the standoff is a "major dispute" between the council and JPG over a voluntary planning agreement (VPA). The agreement sets out JPG's commitment to invest in infrastructure, including the intersection upgrade, due to its development of Watagan Park, Lake Macquarie's largest new residential subdivision.
JPG and council have been in negotiations to modify the VPA since 2017, but no decision has been reached and community members told the Newcastle Herald they were "fed up" waiting for the intersection upgrades.
Lorin Bradford, general manager of over 50s housing provider Lifestyle Communities, said there were "near misses" almost every day.
"Traffic lights would be a godsend for us, our residents don't have the best reflexes or vision, it's a major safety concern," he said.
JPG director Keith Johnson said he had been trying to reach an agreement with council on the VPA, and had lodged plans for the intersections, but was getting nowhere.
Mr Johnson said he has 46 lots left to develop at Watagan Park before land delivery came to a grinding halt because no agreement had been reached.
"It's extremely frustrating for us and for the residents who have been trying to get something done with the intersections," he said.
"If we don't provide infrastructure when it's due, we can't develop because council won't give us landowners consent. Quite frankly they are holding us to ransom."
Watagan Park is a 350-hectare housing estate at Cooranbong which has concept approval for 2500 residential lots, with 453 lots already developed.
The original VPA was signed between JPG and council in November 2008.
Under the deal, JPG is responsible for putting in traffic lights, a concrete medium strip and line marking at the intersection of Alton Rd and Freemans Dr at a cost of about $750,000.
Mr Johnson said council had "changed the goal posts" and now wanted additional traffic lights at the intersection of Central Rd and Freemans Dr, road widening and other works totalling $4.5 million.
"The design council wants for the intersection is not the design council signed us up to in 2008," he said.
"We don't shy away from the fact that we are required to do works, but there has been no acknowledgement from council that the cost and scope has been significantly increased with no offset anywhere else."
Cooranbong retirement village resident Dr Ian Whitson described the intersections as "chaotic".
"There has been a lot of talk but no action for more than ten years, they keep changing the plans and nothing gets done," he said.
"People cross the roads everywhere, the majority are old age home residents, it's a recipe for disaster."
A council spokesman acknowledged there was "community interest" in improving pedestrian safety, particularly at Alton Rd and Freemans Dr, but said the work was the responsibility of JPG.
"The intersection works have been a requirement under the VPA with JPG since November 2008, and as outlined in the VPA, a signalised pedestrian crossing would help improve pedestrian safety," he said.
"The time frame for the completion of the intersection works is dependent on JPG meeting required approvals from Roads and Maritime Services."
Mr Johnson questioned what the council had done with other developer contribution funds from the area.
"This problem has been around for 20 years, and we are ready to solve it, but council needs to come to the negotiating table," he said.
"Where is that money that council has collected from all the developments pre-Watagan Park? Why are they relying on Watagan Park to solve an historic problem they have had for a long time?"
Council said negotiations to amend the VPA were continuing separately to the intersection improvements.
But Mr Johnson said he had gone "as far as possible" in the approval process for the intersection upgrades until an agreement could be reached with council.