Lake council says NSW government can't blame it over Pennant Street bridge

CONTESTED SPACE: Artist's impression of the bridge at the heart of the Lake Macquarie interchange.
CONTESTED SPACE: Artist's impression of the bridge at the heart of the Lake Macquarie interchange.

LAKE Macquarie City Council insists the bridge at the heart of the Glendale transport interchange can be built for the $32 million figure used in its 2016 reports, saying it’s the state government, not the council, that is being vague with its costings.

As Fairfax Media reported earlier this week, the government has confirmed that although it is still paying for funding work on the project, it does not believe that the Pennant Street bridge – the heart of the project from its earliest days in the 1980s – is viable.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, says the council was told this more than a year ago at a high-level meeting in Sydney. Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser acknowledges the meeting, but disputes the government’s account of what was said.

Fairfax Media has confirmed that the meeting heard of problems with an underpass designed to replace a level crossing at Nagari Road, Woy Woy, that had blown out from $30 million to $115 million before it was abandoned – after $16 million had been spent – in late 2016.

Cr Fraser said the government “did not want to get bitten again on a similar project”, but she said the comparison was unfair because the Glendale project was “shovel ready” with the $32-million cost of its “100 per cent detailed design” independently reviewed in 2015 and again last year.

OVERVIEW: Roadworks in yellow for the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange, with the road over the main northern rail lines and the rail yard sidings on the left hand side of the image. Picture: Lake Macquarie City Council

OVERVIEW: Roadworks in yellow for the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange, with the road over the main northern rail lines and the rail yard sidings on the left hand side of the image. Picture: Lake Macquarie City Council

Lake council’s deputy chief executive, Tony Farrell, has been involved with the interchange since he joined the council in 1992.

While Mr MacDonald said the government believed it could help Lake council achieve its development aims for the area without building the Pennant Street bridge, Mr Farrell said it was the state government’s 1989 Hunter Regional Environmental Plan, which designated Glendale as a “sub-regional centre”, that led to the idea of a bridge connecting the Munibung Road industrial area with the Glendale retail precinct.

“Since then the council has modified its own planning to ensure Glendale is characterised as a major centre,” Mr Farrell said. “If Glendale had not been chosen as a major centre it’s not certain the council would have arrived at the Pennant Street bridge on its own.”

Mr Farrell said the bridge had been in later state policies including the Lower Hunter strategy.

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