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Stop secret meetings, be transparent, MP urges

Blue Mountains Gazette June 9, 2020 Jennie Curtin

Save Centennial Glen: Residents gathered to protest in December after the release of plans to put flyovers and an elevated road through the area to duplicate the highway.

Secret meetings of a committee looking at a highway route through Blackheath should be abandoned and the process made transparent, according to Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle.

Save Centennial Glen: Residents gathered to protest in December after the release of plans to put flyovers and an elevated road through the area to duplicate the highway.

"I am absolutely smashed with people who are contacting me concerned about the process," Ms Doyle said.

"Every day there are emails, phone calls, people stopping me in the street asking if I can do something about it."

The Blackheath co-design committee, made up of community representatives, council and Transport for NSW staff, has had two meetings to narrow the four options for the highway down to two.

No details have been released about discussions and the members are prohibited from talking to journalists but the Gazette has learned that only one option - a wide bypass over Centennial Glen - has been costed.

The other options are widening the highway through town, a route along Station Street or a tunnel.

Just a year ago the state government vowed to tunnel under Blackheath. In press releases and on the NSW Liberals website, it promised: "Undertake planning and deliver as part of the 10 year program: A tunnel at Blackheath to protect the heritage and character of the local community."

Bathurst MP, Paul Toole, was quoted as saying he was pleased the tunnel planning would start.

The sudden release last November of three other options could only be described as a "flip flop, a broken promise", said the spokesman for the Blackheath Highway Action Group, Michael Paag.

"If the government has promised a tunnel, why are they doing this [the design committee]?"

Ms Doyle said she had been told that TfNSW met with the Christian School, which is in the path of one of the options.

"They told them, 'You guys don't need to worry, the preferred option won't affect you,' which infers that they have already chosen what they are going to do."

Yet others who sought meetings with the transport officials were denied them, she said.

"All of a sudden there's an air of secrecy, a level of mistrust. I think the whole process is problematic... The government needs to stop and consider their processes of consultation."

Ms Doyle has started a petition which has already gained more than 6,000 signatures. She needs 10,000 to present it to parliament for debate.

It calls on the government to halt the process, present a business case for the multi-billion dollar project and conduct genuine and thorough community consultation.

"What Mountains residents can do right now, is contact my office and request a copy of the petition which we can then mail to you. Once we reach 10,000 signatures, I will be then able to table it in parliament and bring on a debate on the matter.

"We can't let the NSW Government put longer, larger and more trucks on our roads, or ruin the Upper Mountains villages with huge flyovers or tunnels. Why aren't we moving freight to rail? I can think of a million better ways, during a recession, to spend this money. We have too much to lose, and nothing to gain from this project as it stands," Ms Doyle said.

Email with your full name and address to receive a copy of Ms Doyle's petition, or call 4751 3298

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