Former mayor says Blaxland left behind in highway drama

Ward 4 council candidates: Peter O'Toole and Andrew Curnow.
Ward 4 council candidates: Peter O'Toole and Andrew Curnow.

Former Blue Mountains mayor Peter O'Toole of Blaxland is attempting a comeback to local government politics - more than 25 years after his last stint.

He recently letterboxed residents of Blaxland because he is concerned about safe access to the Great Western Highway.

"At the moment all eyes seem to be focused on the proposed $2.4 billion roadworks, including a 4.5 km tunnel at Blackheath, a town that carries a fraction of the traffic that roars through Blaxland each day," he said.

Mr O'Toole said the "state government and the local state member had done nothing".

"Trying to turn at the Bridge Road, Taringha Road, View Street and Hope St intersections to and from the highway is dangerous." And he added trying to get a parking spot on the highway at Blaxland shops is dangerous and "soon Blaxland will be the only Mountain town still on the highway".

"Lawson was also relocated off the highway but that took money, imagination and political will. All that is missing in Blaxland."

"The dangers posed by the highway need immediate attention, but so too does the ancient railway bridge at Wilson Way, the cheap roundabout on Railway Parade, Layton Avenue at McDonalds and the one lane railway tunnel at the bottom of that road."

He said council's masterplan for the town centre "offers nothing to fix the intersections, parking, the overpass, roundabout, pedestrian safety, the confusion at McDonalds and the tunnel".

"The "masterplan" wants a town centre, which is good, but to pay for it they want to rezone Blaxland to four storeys, double the current height, which I think is bad. Our local councillors Greenhill, Christie and the guy in Tasmania have demonstrated no interest in fixing these issues other than writing the occasional letter. They all voted for the masterplan."

He wants to see "a plan that integrates the older parts, where the school and park are with the shops", the highway safety issues fixed, among other issues and said "then we can talk about rezoning the town centre for medium density housing."

Mr O'Toole is standing as an Independent in Ward 4 in the December 4 elections, with Blaxland's Andrew Curnow as number two. Mr O'Toole was elected in 1987, was deputy mayor the following year and mayor in 1991. He finished his term in 1995 when he failed to get re-elected.

The current mayor Mark Greenhill said: "Following Mr O'Toole's time in office, parks were virtually non-existent and capital works spending was close to zero in Ward 4."

"He failed to attract any basic level of funding for public works. My work as mayor has attracted millions in park and infrastructure upgrades. We are in the middle of the biggest capital spend in Ward 4's history."

Cr Greenhill said the issues being raised were "all state government matters about which we constantly lobby, but are outside the control of council. They are also matters he didn't raise to any extent while a councillor".

Sitting Liberal Cr Brendan Christie said it was "not surprising Mr O'Toole's campaign was focusing on state government issues instead of important local ones, because his own tenure on council was an abject failure. The council on which he served was so bad it was placed under administration, and his short term as mayor ended when councillors wouldn't support him".

Cr Christie said "the complete lack of infrastructure spending in Ward 4 during his time on council was so paltry it has taken years to recover from the neglect of the O'Toole-era council".

State MP Trish Doyle said: "the highway is a state government responsibility, not council. I am a member of the Labor Opposition and someone who has advocated for highway safety and railway development for a decade, now."

"My record is consistent and strong. It is the Liberal/Nationals government not prepared to listen or act."