Historic rail line stalls development
THE former Morpeth railway line is at the centre of an inquiry into whether a development application in Morpeth can be approved.
Maitland City Council is searching for the path the rail line took along the river bank between 1862 and 1953 to determine whether a proposed two-storey office and shop-top living development on Swan Street near Queens Wharf Road would be built over it.
Council located the rail corridor on maps from the Australian Railway Historical Division which showed it would not be affected by the development.
But new information has been obtained that has questioned the accuracy of council’s initial information.
Planning environment and lifestyle executive manager Bernie Mortomore said council was working through the issue and had consulted historical documents as part of its research.
‘‘We’re of the view that it wasn’t where we had first thought it was,’’ he said.
Mr Mortomore said he could not comment about whether the proposed development could occur over the former rail line until the investigation was finished.
‘‘There are a number of things that have already been built over where the rail line apparently is … whether it is a problem in this development remains to be debated,’’ he said.
‘‘The first thing is to determine exactly where it sits and then we will work out how the buildings relate to it.’’
Residents opposed to development over the rail line believe no buildings have been allowed to encroach on it in the past 100 years, apart from a few small sheds.
Council first thought part of the building would be constructed over the railway line so it requested that the workshop be reduced by half a metre.
It thought the problem had been solved until conflicting information about the location of the rail line was obtained.
Morpeth residents Darryl and Caroline Lobsey, who live next door, believe the sandstone platform on the proposed site proves the railway line once ran against it.
They said the platform stood at the rear of Anlaby’s Inn – the place to stay in Morpeth in colonial days – and passengers used it to get on and off the train.
‘‘Once a building has been built over the historic rail line there’s no going back, it will be lost forever,’’ Mr Lobsey said.
HISTORIC: The Morpeth tram in 1905 when the Morpeth Railway Station was at Pitnacree Road. The Morpeth line opened on 2 May, 1864 and closed on 31 August 1953.