Council urged to unite Blackheath over highway plans

Blue Mountains Council still has "grave concerns" about the state government plans to duplicate the Great Western Highway, but it is particularly concerned about some options that have left the people of Blackheath divided and worried about the loss of homes and businesses.

At the July 28 council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to write to the state government to ensure some particularly divisive ideas in the four options for the town be removed.

A Blackheath meeting earlier this year about the highway plans.

A Blackheath meeting earlier this year about the highway plans.

The plans look at four options for Blackheath: a wide bypass over Centennial Glen and Porters Pass, a narrow bypass along Station St beside the railway line, expanding the highway through the middle of town or a tunnel. The plans promise to save 10 minutes from Lapstone to Lithgow.

Councillors Kerry Brown and Kevin Schreiber, supported by Cr Don McGregor, asked the elected council to support the request of Blackheath residents that the proposed Station Street inner bypass (option 1) and Centennial Glen outer bypass (option 2) on the western side of the rail line be taken off the table and the Town Centre (option 3) also be discounted. It means the only option not thrown out would be the tunnel.

Cr Brown the options were " untenable ... ploughing through Station Street ... or giving a view of the highway raised up, instead of the escarpment".

Council will write to Roads Minister Paul Toole and Director West at Transport for NSW Alistair Lunn to have the three options "permanently removed from consideration". And council will remind the government of their November 26 resolution to abandon the duplication plan completely due to effects on bushland, community wellbeing and the possible resumption of homes.

Councillors Brown and Schreiber said the proposals were "clearly not in the Blackheath community's interest and will result in extremely detrimental impact on the personal and financial well-being of directly affected residents and businesses, destruction of precious built heritage, flora and fauna, bushland and recreational areas, loss of Centennial Glen as a significant rock climbing destination and the loss of the RFS brigade shed."

The proposal for the western side had "created an economic stranglehold ...with negative impacts on property values, business, investment, tourism and jobs, and that this has been imposed in the wake of the social and economic stress caused by the bushfires and COVID-19 and is now hampering recovery and people's ability to get on with their lives".

Mayor Mark Greenhill said the proposal had created "fear and division ... and hurt and pain in the community" and "did not appear in any budget papers".

"There's no reference to the costings for any options in budget papers ... I hope it's not a cruel election hoax."

Blackheath Highway Action Group spokesman Michael Paag said he was very pleased council unanimously supported the motion.

"The Blackheath Highway Action Group (BAG) calls on the NSW Government to immediately remove the Station Street and Centennial Glen options from consideration," he said.

Mr Paag said the plan to spend more than $4.5 billion duplicating 31km of highway would see B-doubles up to 30 metres travel on the road. He said it did not take into account extra traffic from the second airport and the massive growth in visitation to the Blue Mountains National Park or findings from independent studies which showed even if the Upper Mountains upgrade was completed, a new corridor would be needed by 2033 because of congestion on the highway between Lapstone and Katoomba.

"We believe the proposed duplication between Katoomba and Lithgow should be rejected in its entirety and BAG will continue to campaign to stop it".

"We need to take a longer term perspective and seriously look at other options including more freight on rail and a safer Bells Line of Road," he said.