Catholic Church to sell Black Hill land as industrial

PASTORAL: Cathy Talley, of Black Hill, is concerned about a proposed industrial development nearby. Picture: Marina NeilBLACK Hill residents living on rural properties are worried their piece of paradise will be ruined with the Catholic Church’s plan for an industrial development.

Residents say it is an attractive area to live a rural lifestyle, while being able to commute to Newcastle.

Cathy Talley said the proposed development would affect the lifestyles of people who lived on acreages.

‘‘This is gently undulating country – it’s beautiful land,’’ Ms Talley, of Blackhill Road, said.

Janet Murray said the plan could ‘‘change the character of our area forever’’.

The land is within Cessnock City Council area, but near the borders of Maitland and Newcastle.

The Maitland-Newcastle Diocese’s plan, which includes rezoning 195 hectares for industrial land and 105 hectares for conservation land, is on public exhibition at Cessnock council until July 30.

A Maitland-Newcastle Diocese issued statement said there were ‘‘no plans for heavy industrial use of the site’’.

Transport, distribution, warehousing and manufacturing businesses were ‘‘envisaged’’ for the land, it said.

Ms Talley questioned why the church land could not be sold for rural-residential purposes, like other nearby properties.

‘‘The land was zoned rural when the church bought it, yet they want to leave us with a huge industrial estate on our doorsteps,’’ she said.

The diocese statement said the site was nominated for an industrial zoning because of its size and location on major arterial roads.

The conservation land would provide buffers to ‘‘ensure the rural amenity’’ was ‘‘largely retained’’, it said.

Residents, some of whom have lived there for generations, were already feeling encroachment from industry, such as open-cut and underground coalmines and a quarry.

A large industrial development was planned on Coal & Allied land nearby.

Ms Talley said a NSW government discussion paper on Lower Hunter planning, released in March last year, showed there was enough industrial land in the area.

She said plans to redevelop the 2000-hectare Hydro Aluminium site at Kurri Kurri would provide additional land.

The diocese said it acquired the Black Hill land in 2004 for a regional school.

‘‘In ensuing years, the land was earmarked in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy as being for future industrial use,’’ the statement said.

Cessnock councillor James Ryan previously said the land was included in the strategy ‘‘without community consultation and as a result of closed-door deals’’ with the former Labor state government.