THE University of Newcastle plans to further cement its presence in Tamworth with the development of a $10.2 million education centre.
Coffey Projects, on behalf of the university, has lodged a development application with Tamworth Regional Council to establish the multi-million-dollar Tamworth Education Centre, an initiative of the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health.
If it gets the green light, the facility will incorporate teaching facilities, student accommodation blocks and other associated infrastructure on a seven-hectare site at 114-148 Johnston St, between McCarthy Catholic College and the Tamworth Correctional Centre.
The facility will cater for the University of Newcastle’s growing Faculty of Health and, in particular, students involved with the bachelor of medicine’s joint medical program and allied health programs.
A Statement of Environmental Effects lodged as part of the application said the proposed centre would provide the resources and facilities needed to effectively educate and support students undertaking health-related studies.
It said students studying in Tamworth relied on existing, limited and aged accommodation associated with the hospital or were forced to find private accommodation.
“Teaching facilities are limited to existing facilities in the area, or there are shortfalls in some components of the infrastructure required,” the document said.
The proposed education facility would be a two-storey building fronting Johnston St, opposite the former Bullimbal School site.
A lecture hall, practitioner-training and consulting rooms, clinical lab facilities, meeting rooms, student break-out areas, student and staff amenities, a computer imaging room and study areas would be housed inside.
A student accommodation facility would be built to the north of the education building and would have the ability to cater for 57 students in five detached two-storey buildings.
On the ground floor of the accommodation buildings, there would be five or six bedrooms (three of the blocks would include an accessible bedroom, resulting in five bedrooms), a living area, kitchenette space, bathroom and accessible bathroom, and storage for five bicycles.
The upper level of each block would house six bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette and living area.
A total of 22 car parking spaces, including four all-access spaces, would be provided on-site, central to the accommodation and the education facility.
Cars will access the site from the eastern side of the development.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the project was a huge boost to Tamworth’s tertiary education provisions.
“It’s great Newcastle University has recognised there’s a need to invest here,” he said.
“The decision to go ahead is timely, too, because we are getting ever closer to the redevelopment of the Tamworth hospital.”
Cr Murray said planning for the project had, to his knowledge, been ongoing for the past 12 to 18 months.
Should the DA be approved, work is expected to begin on-site, where the old Weeds and Soil Conservation building was, relatively quickly.
“Council has been involved in a few of the planning meetings, and it seems as though they are ready to have the rubber hit the road in terms of construction,” Cr Murray said.
“This is really exciting for Tamworth and could lead to other developments in the future.”
The northern region Joint Regional Planning Panel will be the determining authority for the application because the project has a capital investment value of more than $5 million and has been lodged as a Crown development.