A plan to transform Dumaresq Creek into the glistening heart of Armidale received a flood of funding on Thursday from the state government.
Armidale Regional Council (ARC) will receive $3million to begin stage 1 of the creeklands master plan.
The major funding windfall is the result of the state government's Public Spaces Legacy Program, which incentivised councils to accelerate their assessments of development applications (DAs) and rezonings to create new development capacity and meet demand for housing and employment over the next decade.
Armidale Mayor Ian Tiley said the grant is the result of council's dedicated planning staff shortening the turn-around time for development applications.
"The team have really stepped up and have met the surge in demand that we are currently experiencing, achieving all of the targets under the NSW Public Spaces Legacy Program," he said.
"Their commitment has allowed the first stage of the rejuvenation of the Armidale Creeklands to be funded and I thank them for their dedication.
"This is an exceptional project driven by a community and council partnership that will transform the heart of the city and provide a series of spaces and landscapes enhancing recreational opportunities and experiences whilst improving biodiversity and riparian vegetation."
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the overall masterplan will beautify a 1.5 kilometre stretch of the creeklands, between Markham Street and the Taylor Street sporting fields.
"With hard work the Dumaresq Creeklands have the potential to be a site of real natural beauty and community pride,' Mr Marshall said.
"In 2018, ARC went to the community to ask what changes it wanted to see along the watercourse to increase public accessibility, manage flows and improve the local ecology."
Stage 1, which is defined as the Active Family Precinct within the masterplan, takes in the creek area at Albion Park, opposite Armidale TAFE and grassed areas adjacent to the Monckton Aquatic Centre and skatepark.
"ARC will open up the space by removing vegetation from the waterway and soil in the Albion Park area near the timber bridge to restore the creek and open pools to allow interaction with the waterway," Mr Marshall said.
"Council expects, by increasing visibility in this area there will be a reduction in the amount of rubbish and trollies dumped in the creek."
New parkland will be established in the around the existing footbridge, which will include landscaping enhancements and the addition of new covered seating.
"An important piece of Armidale's heritage will also be preserved," Mr Marshall said.
"The Spanish Mission archway at the back of aquatic centre will be reinforced and given a fresh coat of paint.
"I have to stress this is only the first of a multi-stage redevelopment of the creeklands."
Mr Marshall said he looked forward to working on the project with ARC over time and acknowledged the improvements made by council.
"For Armidale to grow and prosper into the future, it is imperative that planning mechanisms are supportive of business growth and residential development," he said.
"We need to foster within in the community the image that Armidale is agile and encouraging of business.
"If an existing manufacturer wants to extend their plant to support growth and new jobs, it's important they know lodging a DA with ARC is a smooth process which will be responded to in a reasonable time period.
"Similarly, families looking to make changes to their properties need to be given confidence their DA's won't languish with planners for months potentially resulting in increases to quotes and delivery.
"I congratulate ARC's planning staff for committing and seeing through this process, which long-term will result in positive economic outcomes for the city."
ARC will be provided with funding for project planning and design and will have until 30 June 2021 to demonstrate they have met DA assessment performance improvements to lock in their full allocation of funding, ahead of construction starting on projects from August this year.
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