Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes says "carving off" Honeysuckle from council planning has had "unfortunate" results for the city.
Speaking during a council debate on Tuesday night about the preservation of the Wickham School of Arts building, Cr Nelmes said she wanted to see Honeysuckle better integrated into the rest of the Newcastle CBD.
"Probably one of the most unfortunate situations we have historically in the city ... is the carving off of Honeysuckle from the planning of the city and also the care and control in terms of approval processes and planning for the council," she said.
"And that has given a very separate look and feel to Honeysuckle, so it's really important that it is integrated back into what is becoming, thanks to many brave decisions by this council, the new CBD in Newcastle West."
The council has been widely perceived as being in lockstep with the state government on the city's urban renewal program, including the removal and rezoning of the former heavy rail line and the introduction of trams.
But the Honeysuckle project, led by the government's Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, has effectively removed the council as the approval authority in its boundaries.
Cr Nelmes told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday that she hoped the final stages of the redevelopment would improve links to the rest of the city.
"There is a lack of connectivity from Honeysuckle back into the city from the waterfront when compared with Queens Wharf and the Market Street lawn area in the east," she said.
"There needs to be focus on public open space, and economic and employment lands at Honeysuckle that connect back into Hunter Street and the new CBD in Newcastle West.
"There is an opportunity to diversify the area to create further activation and more local jobs, which I understand HCCDC are pursuing."
HCCDC has sold property worth about $110 million in the past five years to various developers.
The corporation has reinvested money in Market Street Lawn, Museum Park, The Station, Signal Box, the former Wharf Road bus depot and the $55 million Honeysuckle Park.
HCCDC says the 53-hectare Honeysuckle site has attracted more than $1 billion in private investment.
"The transformation of the precinct and integration with the city is better than ever with new road connections at Steel Street and Worth Place, as well as several new pedestrian connections and light rail stops," an HCCDC spokesperson said.
The corporation will launch a community consultation program on Thursday, asking for public feedback on how to develop the last three hectares of Honeysuckle land.
Independent councillor John Church also raised concerns about how well the precinct had been planned.
He said a green space in front of a preserved school of arts building would help achieve "what was always planned ... to open up the city in the north-south movement between Newcastle West and the harbour".
"At the moment, when people arrive at the Wickham interchange they hit a bit of pool fencing, and then they hit Stewart Avenue, which is a busy road," he said.
"Wouldn't it be terrific if we were able to work with the state government on a plan that would see people arriving by train being able to move freely across to green space, see the historical interpretation of the Wickham School of Arts and move through to the harbour."
The council tried to increase pressure on the government to include the school of arts on the State Heritage Register "following HCCDC's public declaration that they have no intention of demolishing the building".
Councillors voted unanimously to seek written assurances from HCCDC that it has no plans to demolish the building, which is linked to the education of writer Henry Lawson.
The motion also called on the government and council to develop a plan to refurbish the school of arts for a future use and preserve the adjacent land as green space for public recreation and enhancing the city's connections with the harbour.
The building stands on one of the last undeveloped blocks in Honeysuckle.
HCCDC, then known as Hunter Development Corporation, said in 2014 that it was considering applying to knock down the building, which it bought from the council in 2008.
The government agency said in July this year that it had "no current plans" to demolish the Victorian-era landmark, which was "sitting within a larger site intended to contribute to the emerging West End CBD, providing mixed use outcomes including office employment".
The building is listed on planning documents as an item of local significance.
Cr Nelmes wrote to Premier Gadys Berejiklian in July seeking a heritage protection plan to ensure the building was not demolished.
Labor councillor Carol Duncan told Tuesday's meeting that HCCDC's indication that it was not planning to demolish the building did not guarantee its survival.
"What if the site is sold?" she said. "I realise it is probably a very valuable piece of land for the state government, but that small building ... is valuable to us, it's valuable to our community."
HDC's 2000 Honeysuckle Public Domain Strategy shows the building being retained beside a public plaza called "Lawson Square".
Greens councillor John Mackenzie said HCCDC should "fulfil the promise they made two decades ago".
The government has placed Segenhoe Flats in Wolfe Street and Toll Cottage in Bolton Street on the State Heritage Register this year.
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