A VISITING British planning expert and the state’s chief planner have both described Newcastle as a place on the verge of great things at a planning workshop at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.
London-based Professor Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White spoke at length about the opportunities and challenges facing Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region at the workshop, hosted by Department of Planning and Environment deputy secretary Brendan Nelson and attended by about 80 people.
On his first visitto Newcastle, Professor Clark said he was surprised by what he’d seen, compared withwhat he’d heard beforehand.
“I thought I was coming to see a city in decline, full of challenges, but when you look at all of the things that are happening right now, it’s already full of opportunities,” Professor Clark said.
Brendan Nelson, NSW Planning and Environment
Mr White, who took the top planning job in NSW after a long career in local government in Queensland, said Newcastle was in effect the opposite of Canberra. Whereas Canberra had been “planned to death, Newcastle had no metropolitan plan”.
Both men talked about a need to develop long-term plans that could be broken down into phases, and which took notice of change as it happened.
Mr White said planners had done quite well until about 10 years ago in managing cycles of change, but the big “structural disruptions” caused by digital technology were creating “change on a scale we have never seen before”.
IMPRESSED: British planning expert Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White extolling Newcastle’s virtues at a workshop on the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.
Both men said the old method of planning, where industry, residential, health, education and retail were each concentrated in their own zones was no longer working.
There were limits to what planning could achieve but a Greater Newcastle Metropolitan plan –together with a single regional voice to backit – was a necessary first step in promoting the region to governments and employers, as well as potential residents and visitors.
The workshop heardProfessor Clark would return to Newcastle later in the year as work on the metropolitan plan continued.
Asked about better rail links to Sydney, he said there was a risk they might initially suck jobs out of Newcastlebut the benefits would eventually work in both directions.
Light rail and theCBD university campus meantNewcastle was already on the path to renewal.