FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Revitalising Newcastle program:

Rezoning the corridor

What is the planning proposal? Is it a development application?

The planning proposal is NOT a development application.

The planning proposal is a document that explains the proposed zoning changes to the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 (LEP) to support new land uses. At the moment, the corridor is zoned ‘infrastructure’, which supports its former use as a heavy rail corridor. The planning proposal is the first step in the rezoning process. Any proposed building on the corridor (after it has been rezoned) will follow normal development approval process through Council. Opportunity for community input is a part of the development application process. 

The planning proposal suggests new land uses for a section of the former heavy rail corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle Station. The proposed rezoning directly reflects business and community feedback gathered through the 2015 ‘Revitalising Newcastle’ community engagement program, which was run in partnership with Newcastle City Council.

As required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the planning proposal is now controlled by Newcastle City Council and it has placed the proposal on public exhibition, which will finish on 23 October. This is your opportunity to comment on the proposed rezoning. Council officers will review all submissions before the elected Council considers endorsing and submitting the proposal to the NSW Minister for Planning to amend the LEP.

We expect the rezoning process to continue late into the year and the outcome to reflect the community's majority view.

What are the proposed rezonings?

To activate the city and attract people, jobs and tourism, the planning proposal suggests rezoning the land from infrastructure (SP2) to public recreation (RE1), tourism (SP3), and mixed use (B4).

The proposed zones generally align with the existing uses either side of the rail corridor, to create a logical land use zoning pattern in the Newcastle city centre.

New controls to guide the height and density of development on the land (in alignment with adjoining sites) are also included in the planning proposal.

What area is covered in the planning proposal?

The proposed rezoning covers 4.2 hectares of the former heavy rail corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle Station. More than 3.15 hectares (75%) will deliver community benefit including education, public recreation, affordable housing and tourism.

The rest of the corridor is proposed as mixed use zoning for retail, commercial and residential uses that revitalise Hunter and Scott streets while respecting Newcastle’s heritage and character. New pedestrian and active transport connections are included in the plan to enhance accessibility in the city centre.

Council amended the planning proposal we submitted to include minor changes to properties outside of the surplus corridor and minor changes to the height and floors space controls.

Where will there be buildings and how high will they be?

The planning proposal suggests matching zoning heights on the corridor with current adjoining heights, which range between 14 and 30 metres – generally buildings between three and nine storeys. The height controls also take into consideration existing built form, land uses, visual analysis, overshadowing, and suitability of the site for development. The proposal generally suggests higher buildings in the west and lower buildings in the east. It also includes a restriction for buildings on the Newcastle Station site, to be no higher than the existing buildings for the Scott Street frontage, or 10 metres for the remainder of the site.

Final heights will be incorporated into the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 to control any future development. Any proposed buildings will follow the normal development approval process through Council. Opportunity for community input is a part of the development application process. The planning proposal is NOT a development application.

Newcastle City Council has also considered proposed amendments to the Newcastle Development Control Plan 2012 (the DCP) to support and control the proposed building character, access, parking, street wall heights and building setbacks.

Will there be public space on the former corridor?

The planning proposal suggests four main public domain areas along the corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle Station - the areas around Market Street, Newcastle Station, Civic, and Darby Street. More than three-quarters of the corridor from Worth Place to Newcastle Station will deliver community benefit including education, public recreation, affordable housing and tourism. Already there are new pedestrian routes enabling access along the length of the former corridor from Wickham to Newcastle Station via a new road at Worth Place, seven temporary pedestrian crossings from Hunter Street to Wharf Road, and across the Market Street Lawn.

Market Street Lawn is an active public space hosting community events. A development application has been lodged with Newcastle City Council to repurpose the Signal Box and landscape the immediate surrounds. We’re also working to create useable spaces to expand the current Lawn area.

What's happening to Newcastle and Civic stations?

The State heritage-listed Newcastle Station and its surrounds are proposed to be zoned as tourism.  This will allow the site to be adaptively re-used to establish a significant destination for visitors and locals. We hope to see the building temporarily used until a permanent use is identified through an Expressions of Interest (EOI) process in 2018.

The area around Civic Station is proposed to be zoned as public recreation. This area sits within the cultural and education heart of the city, where well-defined north-south routes connect Civic Park, the Civic precinct, the education and entertainment precincts and the harbour. The next steps will include working with heritage experts and landscape architects to develop a public domain plan and submit a development application for works to create the new space.

What is the status of the planning proposal?

Amending the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 is a lengthy and legal process. 

It has been more than 12 months (July 2016) since we lodged the planning proposal with Newcastle City Council. Council considered the proposal and supported that it be submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) for a review and Gateway determination (October 2016). In December, DPE issued the Gateway determination with the requirement that Council place it and associated planning documents - a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) and Development Control Plan (DCP) - on public exhibition. On 22 August 2017, Council resolved to move ahead with this recommendation.

The VPA and DCP work with the planning proposal to guide appropriate building and public space design on the former heavy rail corridor.

The planning proposal package is on public exhibition from 11 September until 23 October 2017. After this, Council officers will review all submissions before the elected Council considers endorsing and submitting the proposal to the NSW Minister for Planning to amend the LEP.

The exhibition of the planning proposal package does not constitute approval for specific development on the corridor – any proposed buildings will follow the normal development approval process through Council. Opportunity for community input is a part of the development application process. 

What is the process to change the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 (LEP)?

The process to change the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 (LEP) is set out under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The Act requires that a planning proposal be submitted to the relevant local council, which reviews the proposal and sends it to the Department of Planning and Environment for a ‘Gateway’ determination. This determination is a review to ensure the proposal has merit, and it sets out the specific technical studies that need to be undertaken for the site as well as consultation that council is required to undertake. As required under the Act, the council manages the rezoning process, including public exhibition.

The change being sought to the LEP is a rezoning of the former rail corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle Station and the application of appropriate development standards (in particular height and floor space ratio) to guide the height and bulk of development.

You can find out more information on the process for changing a Local Environmental Plan on the Department of Planning and Environment’s website.

Are there any other planning controls that apply to the sites?

Revitalising Newcastle has been working closely with Council to develop appropriate development and design controls for the sites. These include street wall heights, pedestrian links and building setbacks, which are similar items within Council’s current Development Control Plan (DCP).

Specific ‘precinct’ controls are proposed for Newcastle Station, Darby Plaza (opposite the intersection of Darby and Hunter streets), the Civic area around Civic station and the Hunter Street site (opposite Crown Street) to provide more detailed guidelines about appropriate built form in these areas while respecting surrounding heritage and character.

Outside of these proposed amended Newcastle city centre controls, the existing relevant controls in Council’s DCP will apply to the sites. This includes any controls around parking, signage and landscaping, for example.

The proposed changes to the DCP form part of the planning package going on public exhibition.

Why is there one parcel of land deferred from the planning proposal?

One area will not be rezoned at this stage, adjoining Scott Street between Brown and Perkins streets. This allows Council to consider how it would like to best use this site, which adjoins the Council carpark to the north.

When will new buildings and public spaces be built?

Under the heritage provisions of the current LEP, works that will conserve the heritage significance of heritage buildings sites are permissible. Under these provisions, we have lodged two development applications with Newcastle City Council to undertake heritage works at both the Signal Box and Newcastle Station.

Other planning provisions have allowed us to create and activate areas of public open space, at Market Street Lawn.

These spaces have been opened early for the community’s benefit, and already Market Street Lawn has demonstrated that there is a keen interest in the community for inner-city public domain that is activated with events and activities.

Once the government adopts the amendment to the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012 (LEP), a development application will also be lodged to landscape the Civic area and create a new public domain, in line with feedback from the community gathered in 2016.

Adjoining the new Civic area is a mixed-use site proposed for affordable housing. Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) will coordinate an Expressions of Interest process to seek a community housing provider to develop and manage an affordable housing opportunity with around 25 homes.

Other mixed-use sites, such as the proposed University of Newcastle site (incorporating corridor lands adjoining Civic, as well as HDC-owned sites) and residential/commercial/retail sites along Hunter Street will require separate development approvals for any building to occur (following amendment to the LEP).

What is currently on public exhibition through Newcastle City Council?

A planning package, consisting of three documents, is on public exhibition through Newcastle City Council until 23 October. The three documents are:

  • The planning proposal (with attachments)– this document seeks to establish the land use zone and development standards (maximum height and floor space ratio) for the sites along the former rail corridor from Worth Place to Newcastle Station.
  • The draft Development Control Plan (DCP) amendment – this document provides more detailed building, place, character and open space guidelines for the future development sites.
  • The Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) – this document sets out the contributions that Hunter Development Corporation, on behalf of the NSW Government, will make to Council in terms of land and works for public benefit, once the new Newcastle Local Environmental Plan for the sites is in place. This includes reinvesting the land sales back into the Revitalising Newcastle program.

What is the draft voluntary planning agreement that is also on exhibition with the planning proposal?

The draft Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) is a legal agreement between Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) and Newcastle City Council under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. It provides a formal commitment by HDC to dedicate land for new public open spaces and to commit to ensuring that development on the corridor will include a minimum amount of affordable housing.

HDC and Council will continue to work closely to develop the plans for open space areas to ensure they meet the long-term needs of the community, and Council, which will eventually take ownership of the spaces.

Following public exhibition, the VPA and any changes will be again considered by Council for adoption and implementation.

Why is the community being asked again to comment on the future rezoning of the corridor?

Public exhibition of the planning proposal is the next step in the planning process and provides the opportunity for the community to formally have its say. People are encouraged to review the proposal package and submit feedback, which will be considered by Council officers before the elected Council considers endorsing and submitting the proposal to the NSW Minister for Planning to amend the Newcastle Local Environmental Plan 2012.

How do I make a submission on the planning proposal and DCP amendment for the former heavy rail corridor?

As required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the planning proposal is now controlled by Newcastle City Council. Council is managing the public exhibition of the planning proposal, draft Development Control Plan amendment, and Voluntary Planning Agreement. Submissions should be made to Council in writing. Learn more by visiting Council's planning proposal public exhibition website.

I was involved in the consultation in 2015/2016 – can I put in a submission?

The current planning proposal and associated Development Control Plan (DCP) have been developed in response to the consultation in 2015 and in line with what the majority of the community told us they wanted to see.

The public exhibition is a formal process, required by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to formalise your comments and inputs for those desired outcomes. We encourage everyone who has been involved in the consultation processes over the past three years to put forward a submission.

How can I find out more information about the public exhibition?

You can find out more information on the process for changing a Local Environmental Plan on the Department of Planning and Environment’s website.

More information on the public exhibition of the planning proposal and DCP amendment, and how to make a submission, can be found on Newcastle City Council’s public exhibition website.

Newcastle Light Rail

About the project

What is Newcastle Light Rail?

Newcastle Light Rail will be 2.7km in length, running from Newcastle Interchange at Wickham to Pacific Park in Newcastle East. Stops will be located at Newcastle Interchange, Honeysuckle (near Hunter Street TAFE), Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park.

When will customers be able to use the light rail?

Light rail services are set to start running for customers in early 2019.

What are the benefits of light rail for Newcastle?

Light rail will provide frequent, comfortable and reliable transport for people who live, work and play in the city centre. Customers will be able to get to key locations across the city centre quickly and easily, with services running every 7.5 minutes during peak hours.

Light rail will help reinvigorate Newcastle’s once thriving main street by bringing people back to the city centre, and delivering customers to the front door of local business.

How will I transfer from light rail to other modes?

Light rail customers will be able to connect with other transport modes at Newcastle Interchange, a fully accessible multi-modal interchange at Wickham. The interchange will integrate trains, buses, taxis, light rail, bikes and a kiss and ride bay.

Newcastle Interchange will be the final stop for customers travelling to Newcastle on the Central Coast and Newcastle, and Hunter train lines. 

How often will services operate?

High frequency turn-up-and-go services will run every 7.5 minutes during peak hours.

How many passengers will each light rail service carry?

Newcastle Light Rail will have the capacity to transport about 1,200 people per hour, with one light rail vehicle able to carry the same amount of passengers as three full buses.

Why does Newcastle’s public transport network need to change?

The current transport system in Newcastle isn’t working. Public transport patronage has dropped and service levels are below standard. With a growing population and the CBD being revitalised, a new approach is required in order to make public transport a more attractive travel option.

Light rail will be a significant addition to the network, providing frequent, comfortable and reliable transport and transforming the way people move around the city centre.

But light rail is only part of the solution. In order for Newcastle to reach its potential, a modern and integrated transport system that connects customers with frequent and reliable buses, ferries, walking and cycling paths is needed.

This is why the NSW Government is introducing Newcastle Transport; a new transport provider to run buses, ferries and light rail, implementing an integrated transport solution critical to Newcastle's reinvention as a modern, vibrant city.

Evidence from around the world shows that a locally based, multi-modal approach works in cities like Newcastle. It means decisions are made with a sole focus on meeting local needs and growing patronage.

Who will operate light rail?

Light rail will be operated by Newcastle Transport. Keolis Downer has been announced as the successful bidder to run Newcastle Transport over the next ten years.

Newcastle Transport will run buses, ferries and light rail, implementing an integrated transport solution critical to Newcastle's reinvention as a modern, vibrant city.

With Newcastle Transport overhauling bus and ferry timetables in 2018, and running light rail services from early 2019, customers in Newcastle are set to enjoy better transport services than ever before.

How much will the new light rail cost to build?

The NSW Government has committed more than $650 million to revitalise Newcastle’s city centre through the Revitalising Newcastle program.

As part of Revitalising Newcastle, the government is delivering light rail, the Newcastle Interchange, better transport services, road and intersection upgrades, and revitalisation of land in the former heavy rail corridor, including improved public spaces.

Are the light rail vehicles accessible for all members of the community?

A key focus of ours has been to ensure that the light rail system will be accessible for all members of the community.

Light rail vehicles and stops will be fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and will also facilitate easy access and travel for passengers with prams and strollers.

Light rail vehicles will include low floors and designated spaces for wheelchairs and seats for elderly or less mobile passengers. 

Business community

How are you supporting businesses affected by construction?

As with any major construction, there will be some short term disruption when light rail is being built.

During construction, dedicated engagement managers will provide businesses with personalised advice and assistance, and businesses and residents will have access to a 24-hour construction response line.

But it’s important to remember that the government is investing over $650 million in infrastructure and urban revitalisation initiatives that will deliver significant benefits for Newcastle.

Revitalising Newcastle is committed to bringing people back into the city centre to live, work and play in vibrant surroundings. During light rail construction, events and activities will draw people into the city and help generate excitement and momentum as Newcastle goes through an unprecedented period of revitalisation.

Already there is renewed energy and excitement in the city centre. We’ll work to minimise inconvenience and support businesses through construction, so they can reap the benefits of Newcastle’s bright future.

Construction

Who is building light rail?

Downer EDI is the managing contractor delivering light rail in Newcastle on behalf of Transport for NSW. 

When will light rail construction start?

Major light rail construction started in September 2017. Construction of Newcastle Light Rail will be carried out in zones on Hunter and Scott streets. There are ten construction zones in total and each zone will be temporarily closed to traffic during major construction. Multiple zones may be closed at any one time. Pedestrian access will be maintained during construction. More information on construction timings can be found here.

How will residents and businesses be notified about construction in their area?

Notifications with detailed information about upcoming work will be delivered to residents and businesses throughout construction. This information will also be available at revitalisingnewcastle.nsw.gov.au

In what hours will work take place?

Most work will be carried out during standard construction hours from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm, weather permitting. We will notify nearby residents and businesses if we need to do any work outside these times.

Will there be weekend and night work?

Weekend and night works may take place in some circumstances. These include:

  • Where emergency work is required to avoid harm to people, property and/or the environment; or
  • Where delivery of oversized equipment, materials or structures require special arrangements is required; or
  • Where a road occupancy license can only be obtained for out-of-hours; or
  • Where works cause unacceptable risks to public safety, construction personnel safety, road network operational performance and/or essential utility services.

In the event of weekend or night work, affected stakeholders will be notified well in advance.

Who do I contact with an enquiry or complaint about light rail construction?

For more information call 1800 684 490, email projects@transport.nsw.gov.au or visit revitalisingnewcastle.nsw.gov.au.

For urgent enquiries or complaints about construction activities, call our 24-hour construction response line on 1800 775 465.

Environment

Is light rail a more sustainable transport option?

Light rail is an environmentally-focused mode of transport that promotes clean, efficient travel. It will provide a sustainable public transport option to customers who live, work and travel within the CBD, easing the pressure on Newcastle’s roads by reducing the city’s reliance on cars and buses.

Will Newcastle light rail have overhead wires?

Newcastle will have Australia’s first majority wire-free light rail system.

Newcastle’s Light Rail vehicles will have an on board energy storage device, which will be incorporated into the roof of the vehicles. As the light rail vehicle pulls up to a stop, an arm will connect with a charging wire above the stop, and by the time customers get on and off, charging will be complete.

This technology also improves Newcastle Light Rail’s sustainability rating and reduces its energy requirement through regenerative braking, which means when the light rail vehicles slow down, energy is put back into the energy storage device.

This change leverages recent advances in technology that are appropriate for the Newcastle route and topography, and that respect and enhance Newcastle’s heritage architecture.

Fares

Will fares be higher because the light rail is privately owned?

No. All public transport fares are set by Transport for NSW in accordance with advice from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

The route

Why won’t light rail follow the old heavy rail corridor?

Newcastle Light Rail will travel between Newcastle Interchange in the west and Pacific Park in the east, delivering customers just 200 metres from Newcastle Beach. Six light rail stops will provide easy access to key destinations such as the University of Newcastle’s NeW Space campus, law courts and Civic Theatre, as well as delivering customers to the doorstep of businesses, which will help drive the local economy.

Light rail is considered a key driver in urban renewal. Running light rail on Hunter and Scott Streets will activate these areas, delivering people as close as possible to shops and services in the city centre and in turn, creating vibrant community, retail, commercial and entertainment precincts.

Running light rail along Hunter and Scott Streets will reinvigorate Newcastle’s once thriving main streets and also allows the former corridor to be transformed into attractive open public spaces, education, residential, commercial and retail opportunities.

Will light rail be extended to other areas in future?

Extensions are being considered as part of long-term transport planning for Newcastle. There are many ideas for potential extensions of the light rail, and it is important that these options are grounded in evidence-based planning that considers customer needs and demand, engineering feasibility and the integration of transport and land use. We look forward to working with Newcastle Transport to identify what opportunities exist for possible light rail extensions in the future.

Traffic and parking

How will changes to traffic be managed during construction?

Up-to-date information about changed traffic conditions, including temporary closures of parts of Hunter and Scott Streets to traffic, will be displayed on electronic message signs and will be available on our website here.

Changed traffic conditions may cause delays and we encourage people to take this into account when planning their trip. For the latest traffic information, visit livetraffic.com or download the Live Traffic app.

What will happen to bus routes?

City centre bus changes came into effect on Sunday 10 September. Hunter Street buses are being diverted at Union Street. Customers travelling east of Union Street will now travel on King and Watt streets, with the exception of routes 106 and 107, which will use Honeysuckle Drive and Wharf Road. Download the bus changes flyer here. Plan your trip at newcastletransport.info

How many parking spaces will be lost as a result of construction and the light rail?

Building light rail and the Newcastle Interchange will impact around 280 parking spaces, which is 2.45% of the more than 11,000 parking spaces available in the city centre. At the same time, the NSW Government is giving Novocastrians real choices about how they travel and viable alternatives to using their car.

Light rail will provide frequent, comfortable and reliable transport, transforming the way people move around the city centre, with services running every 7.5 minutes during peak hours.

Light rail forms part of an integrated transport solution critical to Newcastle's reinvention as a modern, vibrant city. A new transport operator, Newcastle Transport, will overhaul bus and ferry timetables in 2018 and will operate light rail from early 2019. Customers in Newcastle are set to enjoy better transport services than ever before.

Looking ahead, not addressing parking in a proactive way puts Newcastle at risk of growing traffic congestion and frustrated commuters. Evidence shows that car parking works best when integrated and aligned with broader transport initiatives, which is why the NSW Government developed a Newcastle City Centre Parking Strategy to help set a future direction for Newcastle City Council to consider as it plans how parking is managed in the city in future.

Further information can be found in the Newcastle City Centre Parking Strategy in the library.