Unity ticket against highway plans

Opposition: Residents groups and Ward 1 councillors outside the Blackheath RFS building, which would be affected by the western options.
Opposition: Residents groups and Ward 1 councillors outside the Blackheath RFS building, which would be affected by the western options.

Nineteen diverse community and business groups in Blackheath and Medlow Bath have banded together to try to save residents' homes from Transport for NSW.

A flyer endorsed by all the groups was distributed to every home in Blackheath over the weekend, seeking support to get the Station St and Centennial Glen route options taken off the table.

Both would require property acquisitions, affecting private homes and businesses. The Station St option would demolish the RSL hall.

The Centennial Glen option would also involve bridges swung across Shipley Road and Porters Pass, adversely affecting the rock climbing tourists who frequent the area.

The flyer said neither option was in the community's interest.

The spectre of having a reserved corridor across a great swathe of Blackheath has left many residents in limbo, unable to move or sell their homes, facing financial and personal insecurity.

The flyer said: "We urgently needto get the Station Street and Centennial Glen options off the table and lift the strategic corridor on the western side of the railway line so local residents in these affected areas can get on with their lives, and local businesses can plan and invest with certainty."

The Blackheath Highway Action Group put out a call for volunteers to distribute the flyers. It was met with such enthusiasm that within 24 hours the group had sent out another email saying no more volunteers were needed.

Some of the groups which endorsed the flyer are directly in the firing line, including Save Centennial Glen, Save Station St, Vipassana Meditation Centre and the RSL sub-branch.

But while many of the others may not be directly affected, they strongly support efforts to save the homes and businesses of their fellow Blackheathens, according to chamber of commerce president, George Vergotis.

"These two options will decimate the local economy by removing a large percentage of our population who can't physically be re-housed in Blackheath," he said.

It would also affect some businesses which are essential to the town, including Mitre 10.

Michael Paag, from the Blackheath Highway Action Group, said: "We call on the NSW Government to immediately lift the strategic area corridor from western Blackheath and take the Station Street and Centennial Glen options off the table now."

Ward 1 councillor, Kerry Brown, echoed the call.

"It is wanton destruction of people's homes and our natural and built heritage that has only served to frighten and divide people.

"I am sick of men in suits treating people's lives like counters on a political board game. The government must produce detailed feasibility studies for serious freight options including Bells Line and rail before they touch the highway.

"Rail will win hands down as it does everywhere in the world, but let's do the studies anyway so we are dealing with facts."

She said the government was building the game-changing inland freight rail from Melbourne to Brisbane via Parkes along with a Sydney basin freight line from Port Botany to St Marys.

"So I do not understand why the missing link, the corridor across the Mountains, is to be a massive road project instead of upgrading our rail line. Then we would have a rail system that could cope with the anticipated doubling of freight by 2031. One freight train can take the load of 150 semi-trailers."

Fellow councillor, Kevin Schreiber, also called for moving more freight to rail. He called on the government to reinvestigate upgrading Bells Line of Road "which would mean you are not going through wrecking communities".

Alister Lunn, acting director west, TfNSW, said: "While some options for the upgrade of the Great Western Highway have initially been more popular, all options must be considered until the completion of the Blackheath co-design committee process."

He promised to seek further input and feedback from the wider community during the next phase of community consultation.

The 19 groups who endorsed the Blackheath flyer were: The Blackheath Area Community Alliance, Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre Inc, Blackheath Choir Festival, Blackheath & District Chamber of Commerce & Community Inc, Blackheath Golf & Community Club, Blackheath Highway Action Group Inc, Blackheath Men's Shed, Blackheath Mount Victoria RSL Sub-branch, Blackheath Public School P&C Association, Blackheath Rhododendron Festival Committee Inc, Blackheath Streetscape Group, Blue Mountains Historical Society Inc, Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society, Friends of Blackheath Hall, Friends of Blackheath Pool & Memorial Park, Medlow Bath Residents Association Inc, Save Centennial Glen Group, Save Station Street Group and Vipassana Meditation Centre.