SWARMS of kangaroos are the only residents on the old Portland Cement Works site these days.
But if all goes according to plan the abandoned industrial site will become an exciting centrepoint for the Portland of the future.
A residential subdivision, retail area, parks, walkways, extensive landscaping, a mobile home park and grey nomad facilities are all part of a list of options considered possible for the 84 hectare site.
Nothing is yet set in concrete apart from the new ownership currently being finalised.
But the new owners stressed yesterday they had not invested in the site ‘just to let it sit there’.
It was standing room only yesterday when principals of the new owners, AWJ Civil, held their first community consultative meeting on site.
The meeting was held in an old building that in a past life was a hospital and later accommodation for senior works employees.
It was addressed by SWJ co-directors Martin O’Connell and John Culmone, planning consultant Kris Leck and project managers Mathew Mikhail and Eugene McGee.
They outlined an eight step program of development that has already begun and scheduled for completion in late 2018.
However it is expected that development proposals should be ready to be submitted to Lithgow Council and other relevant authorities late next year.
The first stages involve the legal procedures required in closing down what is classified as a mine site.
The company is currently working off an options plan prepared by the previous owners, Boral.
Mr Leck said the options were for a complete transformation of the site that envisaged the ‘safe’ utilisation of the voids (aka the water filled quarries) as a backdrop to a housing subdivision, heritage park, grey nomads park, a portable homes park, walkways, parks, landscaping and a commercial area on portion of the estate.
There are also plans for low cost housing on portion of the property but Mr Leck said it was not a Housing Commission proposal that had been mooted.
One optimistic note was a suggestion for the development of a tourism related major park along the lines of Mayfield gardens in Oberon.
The meeting was told that any contamination issues detected on the site had been minor and that apart from being acidic the water in the quarries was not contaminated.
One of the biggest rehabilitation problems was with weed growth.
Mr Leck said Portland Tidy Towns had expressed an interest in becoming involved in the project.
Replying to a question from the audience Mr Leck said it was highly unlikely that Lithgow Council would again permit any of industrial development on a site in the centre of town.
He did say, however, that warehousing was a possibility.
Heritage orders impose restrictions on some of the more significant structures including the silos and bottle kilns.
Demolition work should be completed by June this year on any structures that can not be utilised and which are not covered by heritage orders, including the dilapidated locomotive shed.
The redevelopment of the site is intended to include the huge water filled quarries.
Expressions of interest are currently being invited to acquire some of the heritage protected buildings and there was an audible murmur of surprise and perhaps even dismay when it was revealed that several expressions of interest had already been received in the dilapidated and currently uninhabitable company cottages in Williwa Street that have been the town’s worst eyesore for years.
There were mutterings from the audience that these were eyesores that should be demolished.
Mr Leck said that anyone expressing interest in any of the buildings would have to be made well aware of the considerable costs involved in bringing them up to modern building code requirements.
He said it was possible that the company would have to go back to the heritage authorities outlining what steps had been taken and seeking a review of the orders.
Co director Martin O’Connell said the company was delighted with the extent of public interest that had been shown since the announcement of the purchase late last year.
He said yesterday’s function was the first of an ongoing program of community consultation as the project develops and should resolve the wide ranging rumours surrounding the project.
“We will clearly need bigger premises next time,” he conceded.
Mr O’Connell outlined a number of site development projects previously undertaken by his company on behalf of major developers.