Heatherbrae has the opportunity to position itself as a major commercial hub for Port Stephens once the proposed M1 bypass is constructed.
This is the vision of Port Stephens landholder John Lidbury who owns one of five properties located on the Pacific Highway earmarked for future commercial development that could feature the likes of an Ikea and Bing Lee store.
At the final council meeting for 2020, Port Stephens councillors approved a planning proposal to rezone around seven hectares of Heatherbrae land from RU2 Rural Landscape to B5 Business Development, and to remove the minimum lot size.
Mr Lidbury, a well-known resident who was raised and schooled in Raymond Terrace, says he purchased one of those lots - a 18,000sqm property - 18 months ago as an investment with a view to build, on-sell or develop the land as part of a joint venture.
"On its own I believe the land would be best suited to a major showroom or retail centre, possibly a caravan retailer similar to the Jayco outlet located further up the road," he said.
"The M1 bypass proposes to cut this highway about 1km further south, with developers funding and erecting a set of traffic lights right on our doorstep, which means the site will retain its easy access without the highway traffic and noise."
Mr Lidbury said he was able to get the five landowners together through careful negotiation to lobby the council, and congratulated the councillors on their forward thinking by approving the planning proposal at 2179, 2199, 2207, 2209 and 2213 Pacific Highway.
During discussions at the December 8 council meeting, Cr Jaimie Abbott suggested the combined area could make way for a bulky goods precinct as featured at Kotara or Rutherford.
"This is an exciting proposal and some of those companies being flagged to go in include the likes of Ikea and Bing Lee... there have been no community concerns [so] it's a win for jobs, a win for business and a win for the Port Stephens community," she said.
Mr Lidbury, however, would not speculate on the type of future development for the site.
"The rezoning of the five properties is just the first step... the opportunities are endless but at the end of the day the individual land owners are free to do as they please."
He believed that the M1 Pacific Motorway extension to the Pacific Highway at Raymond Terrace project would hold a key to the development of Heatherbrae as a leading commercial or bulky goods zone.
The proposed state and federal government upgrade - which includes 15km of dual carriageway bypassing Hexham and Heatherbrae - addresses a key 'missing link' between Sydney and Brisbane as the existing M1 Motorway, New England Highway and Pacific Highway carry some of the highest traffic volumes across the Hunter.
The bypass is expected to deliver regional jobs, with 2700 positions expected to be supported over the course of the proposed project, which had its beginnings in October 2004 and has involved an extensive community consultation program to identify a preferred route and develop a concept design.
A more recent key design change made by Transport for NSW included an improved direct access from the Pacific Highway in and out of the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens.
While work on the project is expected to be some years away, Transport expects to display the EIS for community comment some time this year.