The opening of the Hunter Expressway two years ago was tipped to sound the death knell for businesses in the twin towns of Greta and Branxton.
Today, the centres are poised for radical change with the launch of a new neighbouring town and the unveiling of a land use strategy that will cement the area’s future for the next three decades.
The Draft Branxton Subregional Land Use Strategy will be discussed at Wednesday’s Cessnock City Council meeting and is expected to go on public exhibition for six weeks.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said the aim of the plan was to set the foundations for Branxton to cope with the unprecedented growth forecast over the next 20 years.
“The town’s central business district was really affected business-wise when the expressway opened and there needs to be a plan across both the Cessnock and Singleton council boundaries for the town’s redevelopment,” the mayor said.
The township of Branxton is divided in two, falling both in Cessnock and Singleton local government areas.
“Both councils need to be on the same page when it comes to planning and development,” Cr Pynsent said.
“The one strategy will iron out any discrepancies in terms of long-term planning.”
Once fully developed, Huntlee will be home to 20,000 people.
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“Branxton is on the edge of a boom and Huntlee is already going gangbusters,” Cr Pynsent said.
“Last month council signed the $39 million voluntary planning agreement for stage one of the new town with developers LWP.”
Cessnock council will devise a concept plan for the main street of Branxton drawing on business operators in the town for their input.
He said the plan would tap into the town’s historical significance.
“The town’s heritage will certainly be an asset and showpiece in any future development,” Cr Pynsent said.
The land use strategy makes recommendations for commercial and residential development and has been prepared in consultation with councillors from both councils, their staff and members of the Branxton community.
The strategy identifies the supply and demand for housing and employment development as well as the high level of opportunities and constraints for development within the Branxton sub region.
One of the components of the strategy is the Branxton Town Centre Masterplan, which reinforces the vision for the town’s business hub.
Business chamber welcomes plan
Branxton-Greta Community Business Chamber president and general manager of the town’s Royal Federal Hotel, Mick Starkey, says the land use strategy is great news and probably something that should have been locked into place well before the Hunter Expressway opened.
He said some businesses had flourished since the M15 opened, but some had floundered.
He said the strategy was great news and something the community would embrace.
“We are at an advantage in that both councils have worked with us and are supporting us pretty well,” Mr Starkey said. “We have great community facilities across both towns and we have great community groups that work hard to maintain these facilities.
“The main street needs a redevelopment, beautification etc to draw people into the town so we can have a point of difference from Huntlee.
“We need to create gateways to the towns and capitalise on the tourism in the vineyards.”
SOURCE: The Maitland Mercury
AUTHOR: Donna Sharpe
PUBLISHED: Tuesday, 8th December 2015
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