Residents representing both sides of the six-year-old, rail trail argument were heard during Public Forum at Armidale Regional Council's monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 26, before councillors resolved to support the declassification of the rail corridor to construct for the New England Rail Trail on.
Councillors also allocated a maximum of $25,000 over the next six months to help further develop existing business plans for the project, and will also seek advice on funding streams from State and Federal governments for the trail's development.
Cr Ian Tiley spoke in favour of the motion, saying the battle lines on the issue had been drawn for quite some time.
"Those for, and those against have discussed this out in the community for a long time. It's not fair to say that there hasn't been consultation," he said.
"The economic and social imperatives, which were so well put to us today, especially by the businessmen, make it compelling for us to stay the course and take the next step, and spend the maximum of $25,000 to flesh out the business plan."
Cr Debra O'Brien said she had worked with a group that had put together an in-depth and persuasive plan for a heritage train from Armidale to Guyra.
"It has been put to a couple of cross-party politicians who thought it had a great deal of potential and interest," she said.
"So, those sorts of things could be lost if we get rid of the corridor."
Mayor Simon Murray was happy with the resolution because it meant council would be able to proceed to a business case for the project, and the reclassification of the corridor.
"Another important thing is the establishment of the governance structure," he said.
"It's not just us pursuing our interests or Glen Innes pursuing theirs, a combined oversight is taking this project forward regionally.
"I think Cr Tiley's comments were very appropriate. It's something the community has supported for many years, and continues to support."
The governance structure will include Armidale Regional Council, Glen Innes Severn Council and the New England Rail Trail as a minority member.
Among other things, the body will commence the rail trail's design and project planning, including scoping, advise councils on the transfer of the rail corridor and prepare land tenure and funding applications, so its formation is a big step forward for rail trail enthusiasts.
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