Council cracks down on Islamic cemetery access

SUPPER: Mayor Bob Kirk indulged in just some of the tasty delights turned out by the Marulan Lions Club after the outreach meeting on Tuesday.

SUPPER: Mayor Bob Kirk indulged in just some of the tasty delights turned out by the Marulan Lions Club after the outreach meeting on Tuesday.

Police and a roads authority do not object to proposed highway egress arrangements from a planned Islamic cemetery at Marulan.

But Goulburn Mulwaree Council and many residents strongly oppose the idea, telling the cemetery’s backers, the Al Mabarrat Benevolent Society, in no uncertain terms that a left-turn only out of Highland Way onto the Hume Highway was not acceptable.

The council recently argued to the NSW Land and Environment Court that such arrangements would disadvantage hundreds of people wanting to travel north to Sydney. It has called on the applicant to build a highway overpass instead.

Yet minutes of an October council traffic committee meeting revealed that police supported the left-turn proposal. They also recommended vegetation be cleared from the intersection to improve site distance.

Similarly, the Roads and Maritime Service backed this option and construction of a roundabout at the George Street/Brayton Road intersection, allowing vehicles to travel north. The proponents suggested it as a way of managing traffic and safety concerns raised in public submissions about the controversial cemetery.

But the council’s representative on the committee, Cr Andrew Banfield, told the meeting the right-turn ban was not in the community’s best interests. He argued it would increase traffic in the town and there was no mention of who would repair resulting road damage.

The committee’s recommendation to implement the left-only turn, construct a physical barrier to block right-turns onto the Highway and to clear inhibiting vegetation was put to the council’s October 4 ordinary meeting.

But instead of rubber-stamping the recommendation, councillors simply noted it. General manager Warwick Bennett said residents had contacted the council asking them not to support the suggestion.

An overpass is expected to cost millions of dollars.

The topic arose at a council outreach meeting in Marulan last Tuesday. District man David Humphreys asked why the overpass was the council’s only solution.

Growth, Strategy and Culture director Louise Wakefield replied the council was only responding to the no right-hand turn option put forward by the Society in court.

“If it was a normal DA process, the access would be something we’d nut out with them,” she replied.

Mr Bennett said locals shouldn’t be disadvantaged by extra traffic the cemetery might attract.

“We believe it’s wrong in every respect and that’s why we’re opposing it and we urge you to make your feelings known in submissions.”

The court will hear the matter in Goulburn from November 7 to 11, starting with a site inspection.

The Hume Highway bypassing Marulan and access to the town was a key discussion point at the meeting.

A recently completed draft employment strategy identified truck movements through the main street, accessing the highway, as a major weakness. So too were the large fuel stations on the highway that “diverted visitors away”.

Several years ago, the RMS blocked traffic crossing from southbound lanes opposite the BP service station into Marulan, on safety grounds. Many residents are still angry.

Mr Humphreys wanted to know what the council was doing to progress an entry and revive the town.

Mrs Wakefield replied that the employment strategy had recommended investigation of demand for an alternative access route to the Hume Highway. This would involve the council resuming some land between the George Street southern slipway and the Holcim interchange.

“I’m optimistic there will be opportunity for discussion with the RMS, but we are beholden to that agency … But it is certainly back on the agenda,” she said.

Residents also raised the quality of roads elsewhere in the district and the impact of quarry trucks.

One man asked whether the council could “use its elbow” to secure another access road to stop Brayton Road quarries using George Street.

Mrs Wakefield assured him her “elbows were up,” especially in regard to Gunlake Quarry and discussion about a rail transport alternative for its expansion project.

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