The rolling green hills are being replaced by gleaming rows of rooftop tiles as Gillieston Heights’ evolution from a quiet rural village into a thriving residential community gathers pace.
Construction works have begun on the $200 million Wallis Creek land release, the latest in a line of communities that have sprung up from the former farmlands either side of Cessnock Road.
The suburb was identified as a priority for development in Maitland City Council’s Urban Settlement Strategy, which is currently undergoing its biennial review.
Since the rezoning of parcels of land began in 2005, the council has received and approved 10 development applications for a total of 1494 new lots and 201 medium density units.
These include the new Wallis Creek subdivision, as well as the four other land release areas currently offering blocks for sale - Darcy’s Peak, Saddler’s Ridge, Hunter Rise Estate and Gillieston Grove.
The land boom has seen the suburb’s population more than double so far, growing from around 600 residents to almost 1400 according to the 2011 Census.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as only 32 per cent of the residential lots and 8 per cent of the medium density units already approved by the council, have actually been released for sale.
Council’s 15 year projections tip Gillieston Heights’ population to increase to about 5300.
This is based on the expectation of around 1760 lots being developed, with an occupancy rate of 2.7 people per home.
Council’s manager of urban growth, Ian Shillington said the council was monitoring the development of Gillieston Heights, including the take-up rate of lots.
He said they would report on it, as well as the city’s other suburbs, during the review of the urban settlement strategy.
Another government agency keeping a keen eye on Gillieston Heights’ growth is the NSW Department of Education.
Enrolments at the tiny Gillieston Public Primary School have risen from the mid-'90s to about 115 in 2011 and at least 138 this year.
The state government purchased 1.3 hectares of land adjacent to the school for a reported $1.6 million in 2010 to accommodate any future expansion requirements.
Hunter/Central Coast school education director Rob Farley said while he expected new permanent buildings “would be further down the track still”, additional demountables have been placed on the recently-acquired land in recent years to cope with the growth.
“Our demographers keep an eye on things across the state and we are keeping a close eye on Gillieston because of the subdivisions – there will be a lot of families move in,” he said.
“With the numbers the school has [now], they’ve got six classes and enough rooms for that.
“But given they’re aware of the growth potential out there, they do have footings in place for another demountable if they need one quickly.”