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|Coal company's warning on Camberwell Common 16 Apr, 2010|
THE coal company granted access to the Camberwell Common told the State Government more than a year ago the site would need to be closed or relocated to pave the way for a new nearby mine that would generate about $99 million in royalties.
The Camberwell Common was revoked in yesterday’s NSW Gazette, ending community management of the two-part 90-hectare common that was granted in 1880s as a grazing and recreation area.
Documents lodged with the NSW Planning Department show Ashton Coal told the Government last year it needed to negotiate the ‘‘closure or relocation’’ of part of the Camberwell Common, which was ‘‘within the footprint’’ of a proposed open-cut mine, to the south of the village.
Documents from February last year said that ‘‘to recover the full resource it will be necessary to relocate or close this common in consultation with the Department of Lands and the common’s Trustees’’.
A Planning Department spokesman said yesterday the open-cut application was still being assessed and no determination was imminent.
Asked why the common was revoked if the project was still being assessed, a spokesman for Planning and Lands Minister Tony Kelly said the trust had refused to negotiate.
‘‘This action ensures Ashton Mining have access to the site to carry [out] all necessary actions as part or follow-up to their development application,’’ he said.
Hunter Minister Jodi McKay said she was ‘‘very disappointed’’ the trust and Ashton had not reached an agreement, and she would work to help find a site that could instead be used as a common.
‘‘I want to acknowledge that the common has been used by the Camberwell community for over 100 years and I can understand the community’s concerns and frustrations,’’ Ms McKay said.
Upper Hunter Nationals MP George Souris said he was ‘‘stunned’’ at the Government’s brazenness and would lodge questions or speak on the issue when parliament sat next week.
‘‘So the Government has put the cart well and truly before the horse and obliterated its obligation to consult the community,’’ he said.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the Government should have been focused on investigating cracks that had emerged on the part of the common near Ashton’s existing operations.
‘‘Transferring this land to grease the way for a future mining project which has yet to be signed off makes a mockery of the independent planning process in this state,’’ Ms Rhiannon said.
Ashton Coal said it had made ‘‘every effort to engage with the members of the former Camberwell Common Trust’’. It would be a ‘‘responsible tenant’’ and work with residents.