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Exhibition of coke works’ residential plan should be ‘delayed’ says community group

Former Corrimal Coke Works

WHILE welcoming some concessions made to the proposed residential redevelopment of the old Corrimal Coke Works site, the community have called on Wollongong City Council to delay the public exhibition period due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The day before most of the Illawarra went into a Covid-19 lockdown (June 25), Council placed on exhibition the draft Planning Proposal for the rezoning of the former coke works site for public comment.

Corrimal Community Action Group (C CAG) has requested a delay in the exhibition period until the outbreak of Covid-19 was under control, but says it has received no response from Council.

C CAG president Anne Marett says as a consequence of the closure of libraries and the Council administration building due to Covid-19 few people have had a chance to study the plan.

A Council spokesperson said the exhibition for the draft Planning Proposal and supporting documents will remain open until August 31, giving residents 68 days to consider the proposal and make a submission.

“Council understands that there is a lot of interest in the community about this proposal, which is why the exhibition period is significantly longer that the 28 days required by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment,” the spokesperson said.

Depending on future COVID restrictions, Council aims to hold three community in-person information sessions on July 24, 26, 27 – two weeks outside of the current end date for existing restrictions.

Community members can book into a face-to-face session via the Our Wollongong website or by calling Council on (02) 4227 7111.

“We’ll let attendees know if there are any changes to the format of these sessions due to COVID restrictions,” the spokesperson said.

“We recognise that although there are many online avenues for people to provide feedback on this engagement, viewing a physical copy of the proposal is an important option for some members of our community.

“Council has been in discussion with the Corrimal Community Action Group about this engagement and we’ve discussed possible options for alternative forms of access for the group.”

Meanwhile Ms Marett said that the community’s submissions to Council, and contact with councillors, over the past three years have lead to positive changes to the plan.

Changes to the original plan include a reduction in the height limit from six to four storeys; the number of residences reduced from 760 to 550; a mix of apartment blocks and townhouses; the buildings will no longer encroach into the 100 metre buffer zone around the flying-fox camp, and more of the industrial heritage features preserved or interpreted.

“As a result of community demands, this plan is an improvement on the previous ones,” she said.

“However there are still a number of important issues that must be resolved before the community can accept it. The issue of greatest concern to the community is still the traffic this development will generate, all through one access point on Railway Street.

“This issue has not been dealt with. We don’t accept that Railway Street can handle the increased number of vehicles.”

Brendan White, from the group, believes the traffic figures the developers are using are out of date.

“They don’t factor in the enormous increase over the past two to three years,” he said. He warned of the risk of a single access point to the site.

“There is an emergency exit proposed via the railway station car park,” he said.

“But traffic would exit right beside the boom gates for the rail crossing, and opposite a street to the north. It’s my belief this would completely fail as an emergency exit and put lives at risk.

“The traffic issues will have consequences for flows right along Railway Street, Memorial Drive and Pioneer Road. This is one of those cumulative impacts of development that is a reality and must be solved.”

Ms Marett raised other community concerns, including the destruction of large trees to make way for the access road.

“They are concerned about the contamination on the site, with the associated health risks, particularly for small children and pregnant women,” she said.

“Others have asked where the water from the dams will go when they are drained. Is that water contaminated?

“Where is the arts hub and community indoor meeting space the community feels would be such an asset?  It would also be an appropriate thank you for their tolerance of the pollution this site produced for 102 years.”

In the meantime, Council is  encouraging interested community members to visit the Our Wollongong website to view the draft Planning Proposal, ask questions and provide feedback. Alternatively, people can also provide feedback by emailing records@wollongong.nsw.gov.au or by writing to: General Manager, Wollongong City Council, Locked Bag 8821 Wollongong DC 2500.


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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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