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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Gabriel Fowler

Last-ditch attempts to save trains' heritage home at Huntlee

IN LIMBO: The heritage-listed South Maitland Railway 10 Class Locomotive at North Rothbury. Trains enthusiasts are battling for more time to remove their wares before being forced to find a new home. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

NEGOTIATIONS are continuing over the fate of locomotives and carriages stored at Huntlee housing estate in North Rothbury after a Supreme Court ruling in the developer's favour.

Train enthusiasts, including the owners of the popular Picnic Train, are asking for up to three years to remove their property from the $1.5 billion development site.

Justice Anthony Payne has adjourned the matter for another two weeks to work out how much time should be allowed, and what arrangements could be made by the court to support the removal of the locomotives and carriages.

Huntlee Pty Ltd and their subsidiary, Misthold Pty Ltd, have won their bid to re-possess the land on Wine Country Drive which was once the hub of a $10 million heritage railway collection first homed there in 1990.

The only issue left for Justice Payne to resolve is when the land must be vacated. The developers behind the Huntlee housing estate originally pushed for "no more than six months" while train and rail groups wanted up to three years.

The proposal now before the court is a compromise - 12 months, with the possibility of an application to the court for more time if all reasonable steps had been taken to remove property within that time frame.

Legal counsel for Misthold had agreed, at his urging, to "allow reasonable access to Misthold land ... basically for a year so that you can take that carriage off and take it somewhere else", Justice Payne said.

"At the end of that time ... if you needed another month I would propose to permit you to come along and say I need another month ... and I would be sympathetic to that if I was persuaded you had done everything you reasonably could."

Those leasing the land had hoped to take the railway carriage sheds as well as rail track with them, but Justice Payne said the question of whether any sheds or railway tracks were fixtures, and so part of the land, was not a part of the proceedings.

"I've not been asked ... to rule whether for example sheds and tracks are fixtures and form part of the land," Justice Payne said.

A spokesman for Huntlee Pty Ltd said the company would "continue to act in good faith and work with the rail groups" to remove their items.

The land where the rolling stock is located forms part of the new town area recently declared as a State Significant Development by the NSW State Government. Recent progress at Huntlee has been impacted by severe rain, the spokesman said, but work was continuing to allow for home owners to start building.

The matter comes back before Justice Payne on July 29.

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