Long-awaited Draft Fern Bay and North Stockton Strategy deferred by Port Stephens councillors

WAITING: Residents of Fern Bay and Fullerton Cove will have to wait a little bit longer to have their say on the draft Fern Bay North Stockton Strategy.
WAITING: Residents of Fern Bay and Fullerton Cove will have to wait a little bit longer to have their say on the draft Fern Bay North Stockton Strategy.

"We have got used to waiting, another month or so is hardly going to make a difference", was the reaction from residents on hearing the news that Port Stephens councillors had deferred a decision to exhibit the long-awaited Draft Fern Bay and North Stockton Strategy.

It followed a request from Newcastle City Council for Port Stephens to attend a workshop between the report authors and councillors from both government areas to better understand the detail of the plan.

As far as the residents are concerned, there are many challenges ahead following the rapid development of this area over the past decade, primarily revolving around the fact that infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth.

Issues dealing with drainage, foot and cycle paths, road development, mobile phone coverage, parking, sporting facilities and transport are paramount, however, the most significant concern was the lack of a supermarket. Stockton's Corroba Oval which caters for hundreds of newly arrived Fern Bay and Fullerton Cove families, requires multiple upgrades.

Fern Bay Fullerton Cove Progress Association spokesperson Sally Johnston that while there was a small independent grocer in Stockton, anyone wanting to shop at a larger supermarket would have to travel at least 20 minutes by car to Mayfield or Medowie.

"The only public transport is a bus service which is sporadic on weekends and after hours and for elderly residents or anyone with mobility problems it means crossing dangerous Nelson Bay Road," she said.

"The footpaths are not adequate and traffic lights are needed at the intersection with Vardon Road."

Mrs Johnston said that there was widespread concern that the area may never see about $3 million in developer contributions planned for Fern Bay Fullerton Cove.

"This money had not been allocated to any specific projects in the Fern Bay area," he said.

"Our issue is that the land use strategy was still being completed when the money had presumably been allocated elsewhere.

"We believe that repealed money should flow immediately back to our area to pay for the infrastructure needs."

Another concern for residents was the future use of Stockton Lodge.

The draft strategy accepts that Fern Bay has experienced rapid urban development, much of which has occurred as a result of state approvals and without a specific plan for the area.

"In 2017 council received three planning proposals seeking to rezone land in Fern Bay; rezone existing neighbourhood centre zone within the Seaside Estate to low density residential; rezone land located on the corner of Fullerton Cove Road and Nelson Bay Road from rural landscape to neighbourhood centre and environmental management; and to rezone the former rifle range in Popplewell Road, Fern Bay, from environmental conservation zone to medium density residential.

"The draft strategy will provide a framework to assess and determine these proposals." It also seeks to identify opportunities to create a pedestrian focused place for people, offering housing diversity, a new mixed-use town centre, and to better connect residents to open spaces and community facilities.

"The strategy aims to protect Stockton Bight and attract responsible heritage and nature-based tourism; to establish a mixed-use town centre; improve access to open spaces and community facilities; and to prioritise safe transport win and around Nelson Bay Road."