Councillors approve Morpeth high-density

Plans for the housing on the former Morpeth Bowling Club are set to move forward.Picture: Marina NeilTrailer park touted if Morpeth housing blocked

MAITLAND councillors have sided with a developer and dismissed a council report that warned that development on the former Morpeth Bowling Club site should not proceed.

Developer Brad Everett, a Morpeth Land Company director, told the councillors before they voted that the report “was not balanced” and he was “trying to get the best outcome”.

Hunter developer Hilton Grugeon watched the debate unfold in the public gallery among 50 vocal Morpeth residents.

Councillor Steve Procter rejected the report and called for the site to be added to the Maitland Urban Settlement Strategy, saying some residents did not have a problem with the 22 to 30 high-density houses that had been flagged for the land.

Councillor Arch Humphery immediately backed him. He said residents would have their say later in the process.

Morpeth residents voiced their opposition to the councillors who spoke against the council report.

They clapped and cheered for councillors Loretta Baker and Henry Meskauskas who disagreed with Cr Procter.

Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore threatened to throw the residents out of the chamber if their noise did not cease.

Cr Baker responded to their calls, saying they were “speaking with their bodies and voices” and “the rural curtilage of Morpeth was important to the history of this country”.

Cr Meskauskas questioned why the councillors, who normally agreed with the council staff and praised their advice, were criticising the report.

“Here we are picking it to threads when all the officers’ reports indicated this is not the time,” he said.

The four Labor councillors voted against Cr Procter’s proposal.

Morpeth resident Heather Berry said development on the site would be at odds with the residential facilities beside it and inconsistent with what was happening in the town.

She said the council staff had backed up their recommendation with solid evidence, adding that the development would have hurt the town’s heritage values.

Cr Blackmore and Cr Geoghegan have defended the move.

Cr Geoghegan said the councillors had not been influenced by the developer and were merely “trying to achieve the best outcome”.

He said a hotel or motel on the site would be much worse, and the developer could submit an application for that because it was allowed under current zoning.

The developer told the Newcastle Herald last week that it would create a trailer park on the site if the council did not approve its plans.

Cr Blackmore said including the land in the strategy was the first step and there was a lengthy process before the councillors would consider approving the development.

He said the land would have to be rezoned general residential and a development application for housing would have to be approved before the developer’s plans could come to fruition.

“This project has a long way to go, the developer has to provide a lot more information and it has to be considered alongside other developments that have been put forward across the city,” Cr Blackmore said.

Plans for the housing on the former Morpeth Bowling Club are set to move forward.Picture: Marina Neil