STAGE one of the controversial Huntlee housing estate at Branxton has been approved by the state government.
With an estimated value of $230 million, the first stage of Huntlee involves a subdivision to create 1473 residential lots and 14 ‘‘super lots’’.
Land will also be set aside for a primary school and open space.
The project has changed substantially since it was first proposed by different owners in 2005, and while the imminent opening of the Hunter Expressway has eased some fears about a lack of transport from the area, various sectors of the coalfields community are still opposed.
The approval was granted by the state’s Planning Assessment Commission after an endorsement by the NSW Department of Planning.
Originally proposed by developer Duncan Hardie and his Hardie Group under the name ‘‘Sweetwater’’, the project became ‘‘Huntlee’’ in 2006.
Its Western Australian owners, the LWP Property Group, bought in to the project in 2007.
LWP managing director Danny Murphy said the approval was a major step forward for the project.
‘‘We are very pleased with the decision, which follows many months of consultation with local residents, business groups, the Cessnock and Singleton Councils and the State Government,’’ Mr Murphy said.
But Cessnock councillor James Ryan, a long-time critic of the project, said it was still the wrong project in the wrong place.
‘‘It’s a satellite city built at the end of a freeway that will only increase the reliance on the motor car while having a shocking impact on biodiversity,’’ Cr Ryan said.