Historic Lake Mac suburb, West Wallsend, could get a makeover! / by Kian West

Work has begun on a heritage master plan to guide development of public spaces in one of Lake Macquarie’s most historically significant suburbs.

West Wallsend was home to more than 6000 people and four booming coal mines at its peak in the early 1900s, giving rise to buildings and infrastructure that still stand today.

Lake Macquarie City Council Integrated Planning Manager Wes Hain said consultation was underway on a West Wallsend Heritage Master Plan to reinforce and strengthen the suburb’s historic character, and to revitalise its retail and commercial precinct.

“We want to make sure any revitalisation of West Wallsend is sympathetic to its important and fascinating history,” Mr Hain said.

“West Wallsend’s significant historical value is already recognised by its inclusion as a heritage conservation area in our Local Environment Plan, but a master plan will provide a blueprint for us to follow over the next 10-15 years.”

Local mining historian Ed Tonks said the opening of the first colliery in West Wallsend in 1888 triggered rapid growth in the area.

Within 15 years, the suburb had become home to thousands of miners and their families, with shops, hotels and eventually a steam tramway to Newcastle springing up to cater for the fledgling community.

Mr Tonks cited West Wallsend as a prime example of how coal mining drove the Hunter Region’s early expansion.

While the steam tramway and many other features of the early township are long gone, important reminders of that era remain.

They include the Museum Hotel, the former Northumberland Hotel building and a collection of cooperative store buildings in the heart of the retail precinct.

Mr Hain said the master plan would include a streetscape plan and separate pedestrian access and mobility plan, both focusing on the suburb’s historic central township around Carrington and Withers Streets.

“Recent residential and commercial development around West Wallsend have the potential to affect the viability and long-term conservation of the old commercial precinct,” Mr Hain said.

“But there is a great opportunity here to capitalise on West Wallsend’s rich history and use it to attract investment and business, and to create a vibrant, contemporary retail and commercial precinct.”

The master plan will cover land owned or managed by Council, including footpaths, local roads and parks, but it won’t address development on privately owned land.

“The next step is to hear from the community about what is most important to them,” Mr Hain said.

“This will provide us with the core values and aspirations that will shape the master plan.”

Public consultation is open until 23 November and includes an online portal (shape.lakemac.com.au/west-wallsend) where people can nominate buildings or items of greatest heritage significance in West Wallsend, list local issues of importance to them and provide ideas on how the suburb’s heritage significance can be better acknowledged.

A community workshop will be held at Holmesville Community Hall on Wednesday 7 November from 5.30pm-6.30pm to further identify historical issues in West Wallsend. Interested community members can register via shape.lakemac.com.au/west-wallsend.