Plans for a $77 million raceway in sleepy Wakefield are headed for a Regional Planning Panel hearing

Not happy: Garth Hawgood and daughters Olivia and Bethany at the Wakefield home that is close to a proposed $77 million raceway resort proposal. Picture: Max Mason Hubers.
Not happy: Garth Hawgood and daughters Olivia and Bethany at the Wakefield home that is close to a proposed $77 million raceway resort proposal. Picture: Max Mason Hubers.

A CONTROVERSIAL $77 million project in the quiet suburb of Wakefield has been slammed for using a Lake Macquarie heritage building incentive clause to propose a raceway resort in a rural area.

Wakefield residents say the BlackRock Motor Park project has used the incentive clause – designed to help preserve heritage items by allowing development in areas where it would not be allowed – to propose a major raceway open 365 days a year, a 5.58km track, more than 150 units of motel, villa and lodge accommodation, go karts, a four wheel drive track and pit lane building to display more than 50 vehicles.

The proposal on the former Rhondda Colliery and railway site includes a heritage pony stable and ammunitions store building which would be protected and restored as part of the development.

“The operation of BlackRock Motor Park will combine to celebrate the previous mining use of the site, transitioning the development from a non-renewable mine to providing a leadership role in the creation of an innovation/technology hub related to motor vehicles,” the company said in a development application to Lake Macquarie Council. 

But residents and objectors including Christine Hocking, Peter Coughlan and Gareth Hawgood have slammed the proposal as a dramatic over-reach of the heritage provision in an area zoned for environment protection near a national park.

Proposal: The entrance to the proposed BlackRock Motor Park project at Wakefield, on the site of a former colliery. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Proposal: The entrance to the proposed BlackRock Motor Park project at Wakefield, on the site of a former colliery. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

“The use of the conservation incentive clause is poor justification to support a development with so many damaging consequences,” said Ms Hocking in a submission that the council will forward to the Regional Planning Panel which is expected to consider the project in December.

The identified heritage pony stable and ammunitions store “would be better preserved if the community raised some money and did the work”, Ms Hocking said.

“Why are they allowed to develop a major resort with such a damaging impact on a quiet area all based on two buildings?”

In 2017 BlackRock proponent Tony Palmer said BlackRock was modelled on a famous Spanish resort and driving track but he was “not trying to build another Eastern Creek” in the Hunter.

The original $30 million proposal was for a 4km track, 20 short-stay villas, a 20-room lodge, training facilities, function centre, bars, cafes, a pit lane building and storage for up to 162 cars.

Quiet: A waterway near the Wakefield BlackRock Motor Park proposal. Residents say the environmental impact of the project has not been adequately considered. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Quiet: A waterway near the Wakefield BlackRock Motor Park proposal. Residents say the environmental impact of the project has not been adequately considered. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

But after Lake Macquarie raised serious concerns about many aspects of the proposal, including noise and environmental impacts, the company returned with a “substantially revised” $77 million proposal, longer track and a greater number of accommodation options. The revisions included a 1 metre high noise attenuation barrier around a section of the track.

BlackRock conceded the “negative social impacts of noise on the community” from the facility but said a noise management plan, the noise attenuation barrier and distribution of monthly and annual calendars to residents showing raceway events would address issues.

“The proposed operation of the circuit is for 20 vehicles operating on the track at any one time. On top of this is the noise generated from the other activities including go‐karts, advanced driver training (skidding) and four‐wheel driving,” Ms Hocking said.

“The applicant has suggested supplying a monthly and annual calendar to local residents. What are we then to do? Pack up the kids and the animals and leave every weekend highlighted on the calendar? Plan our holidays to suit their calendar?”

On September 21 Lake Macquarie Council requested further information from BlackRock on a range of issues including noise, the scale and height of buildings, environmental impacts of track activities and track alignment.

BlackRock proponent Tony Palmer said the use of the heritage incentive clause allowed him to propose a development that protected the overall mine site by changing “the story of the site from a primary industry base”.

He had not bought the former colliery site but had an option over it pending an outcome of his raceway application.

Mr Palmer said consultants were preparing a noise management plan which would allow real-time monitoring and tracking of noise. Once noise limits were reached “We stop immediately”, he said.

“We want to do the right thing," he said.

The scale of the development had increased significantly because of council requirements for the raceway to follow existing trails, and because of corporate feedback.

“The car companies that will be using the resort need a function centre and accommodation. That increases the cost,” he said.

This story Raceway roars to the finish line, but residents aren’t happy first appeared on Newcastle Herald.