The University of Newcastle has acknowledged a significant proportion of staff and students at its Honeysuckle campus will continue to drive cars into the foreseeable future, while clinging to its vision of a car-free future.
Despite only allowing for 12 car parking spaces as part of the campus masterplan, the university has agreed to transition towards its near zero car goal over several years.
The university was widely criticised when it announced in 2018 that it would only provide 12 car parks at the new campus that will cater for 6500 students when complete.
The multi-stage project is expected to take up to 10 years to be fully realised.
Recent Department of Planning approval for Stage 1a of the project requires that 172 car parking spaces in Wright Lane be retained throughout the stages 1 to 3 of the campus's construction.
"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," council planners said.
A City of Newcastle spokesman told the Newcastle Herald this week that the requirement to retain 172 parking spaces was welcome.
"During the planning process, City of Newcastle raised concerns that the university's proposal predicted that all students, teachers and staff would commute to the Honeysuckle campus by means other than driving," he said.
"The city advocated for a more measured approach so that the parking needs for each stage of the development could be evaluated."
"Following the purchase and incorporation of Wright Lane by the university into the development site, the City recommended the retention of 172 parking spaces along the lane, a position which the department has sensibly included as a condition of approval."
The university initially argued that modelling predicted about two thirds of staff and students would live in the suburbs surrounding the city. As such they were 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," the university said in 2018.
University of Newcastle director of Infrastructure and facility services Brian Jones said no changes had been made to the overall masterplan for the campus, however, a staged approach to the reduction of parking spaces would be adopted.
"The masterplan is a long-term project with various stages. The Department of Planning has requested that the 172 car spaces that make up Wright Lane car park be maintained by the University of Newcastle until later stages of the masterplan are commenced," he said.
"Over the course of the staged Honeysuckle City Campus, we will assess parking according to campus requirements."
Former Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy, who has fought against the loss of parking spaces in the city, said the transitional parking arrangement for the Honeysuckle campus development was "a step in the right direction."
"How on earth any government department could approve this development with 12 parking spaces is beyond me. They should be held to account," he said.
"The university's development application documents said there was no need for parking because the majority of its staff and students lived near the campus. That is simply untrue.
"The university knows the postcode of every student and staff member. They should have the decency to release that information so people can see how it compares to the claim they made in their development application."
The site's first building, which has been fast-tracked by the state government, will house an innovation hub, a dedicated public place for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect with community and stakeholders.
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