Call for extended deadline for Little Hartley to Lithgow highway plans

The National Trust has called for more time to consider extensive plans to widen the Great Western Highway from Little Hartley to Lithgow.

Detailed designs: Work at Jenolan Caves Road and River Lett hill would involve bridges and additional lanes.

Detailed designs: Work at Jenolan Caves Road and River Lett hill would involve bridges and additional lanes.

NSW branch president, Neil Wykes, wrote to the new transport minister, David Elliott, on December 30 pointing to a possible breach of legislation by Transport for NSW which had extended the consultation/feedback deadline over the Christmas/New Year break.

TfNSW initially released its review of environmental factors (REF) for the western part of the highway upgrade plans in November with consultation open for four weeks until December 21.

This was later extended until January 16 but, as Mr Wykes wrote, the Environmental Protection and Assessment Act "explicitly prohibits public exhibition of projects between December 20 and January 10 (inclusive)".

Mr Wykes also noted that the REF was 2,500 pages long and was accompanied by 17 technical studies.

"An extension of the Christmas/New Year close-down period is both in breach of the Act and is fundamentally opposed to the concepts of equitable and fair community consultation.

"It is a denial of natural justice to have such an unreasonable shortness of exhibition period given the sheer size of the project, volume of material and significance of the places the proposal will impact."

It is a denial of natural justice to have such an unreasonable shortness of exhibition period.

Neil Wykes

These places include the Hartley Valley landscape conservation area, "a cultural landscape with remarkable natural, built and indigenous heritage value recognised by the National Trust 35 years ago and listed on our National Trust register".

The REF canvasses extensive plans to upgrade the 14-kilometre stretch which would include five new bridges, major reworking of intersections with Jenolan Caves Road and Coxs River Road and an additional lane west-bound up River Lett hill.

Mr Wykes asked the minister to extend the public consultation period until at least February 14.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the timeline for feedback was extended until January 16 to accommodate the community.

TfNSW has also offered local councils additional time for submissions and would welcome a discussion with the National Trust (NSW).