The people of Bangalow agree that a planned ‘food hub’ on the site of the decommissioned RMS donga village would be ‘an eyesore’ but they are divided over plans to turn sleepy Station Street into a one-way bypass road.
A Bangalow Progress Association meeting last Thursday night heard that the Byron Shire Council’s food precinct initiative appeared to be ‘almost a foregone conclusion’, despite concerted community opposition.
Association president Tony Hart told the meeting that a briefing paper that has gone to council ‘talks up the positive aspects’ of the plan but ‘doesn’t talk about the fact that Bangalow doesn’t want it.’
‘They’re talking about a beautiful design and a botanical gardens out the front but you know what it’s going to be like – there’ll be semi-trailers in and out of there all the time.
‘It’s all about the financial implications for Bangalow,’ he said ‘not about a long-term strategy for the village.’
Fellow consultative committee member Kylie Mowbray-Allan said there was ‘also suggestion of turning it into Ballina Fair style centre,’ to the horror of attendees.
‘We’re not opposed to the concept of a food precinct but the majority of us said the best option was to extend existing industrial estate, which has room to expand,’ she added.
Bypass plan panned
But any perception of unanimity among the villagers was quickly dispelled once the Chamber of Commerce’s Jeff Lovett had the opportunity to voice the organisation’s plan to turn sleepy Station Street, home of the iconic A&I Hall, into a village bypass, taking one-way traffic across the railway line and depositing it onto Leslie Street and ultimately Granuaille Road.
‘There is a large parcel of railway land on Leslie Street that could be used for “green parking”,’ he told the meeting, to general objection.
Mr Hart said if the street crossed the currently unused railway line ‘it could potentially cross a future cycle-pedestrian way,’ referring to the planned rail trail.
‘Leslie St is already major access street to the whole northern suburbs of town,’ he added, ‘narrow as it is.’
‘And we’d have all this extra traffic entering Granuaille Rd on a corner that is completely blind,’ Mr Hart said.
Former Italian Diner co-owner Sharon Fraserarch said something must be done about Station Street but turning it into a bypass wasn’t the answer.
‘I couldn’t believe, until I worked there, that every seven or eight seconds there was a car coming down the street that would do a u-turn in the middle of that [Station Street] intersection,’ Ms Fraserarch said.
She added that there needed to be a plan for Station Street, for the sake of the traders but that either a mall or a one-way bypass would kill it.
Progress Association secretary Jenny Coman added that turning it into a bypass would ‘destroy the historic heart of Bangalow’.
After vigorous discussion the meeting voted that the street should remain a two-way cul-de-sac with a larger turning circle, perhaps with a tree and some seating in the middle, that would allow A&I patrons to spill out onto the road after events without fear of being run over.
Additional car parks could be created on railway land adjoining the road to compensate for those that would need to be removed.
Showgrounds committee member Jan Hulbert said the committee had agreed to open the main gates adjacent to the A&I Hall to allow for extra off-street parking when large events were held there in future.
Rug Shop owner Milton Cater said vision was urgently required as the village was ‘being destroyed by the motor car’.
You’ve got to kill the motor car or the motor car will kill Bangalow. It’s not just the traffic flow, it’s the health of the people. You only need to look at Shirley Street to see what will happen if we don’t so something: all the trees are dying – what about the people?’ Mr Cater asked.
Further development opposed
The only Byron Shire councillor to attend the meeting was Alan Hunter, and it appeared his motivation was primarily to soften up the community for additional developments.
We’ve got to be careful about saying “no more” anything,’ he told the meeting.
‘People are going to come. If we aren’t ready for them, they’re going to come anyway. The art of the game is to get bigger without losing our character.
‘In the past we’ve tried to stop to development. Now we’ve got more potholes, housing problems and housing costs than other shires.
‘We’ve made some mistakes in the past. No one in their right minds would want to change the atmosphere of Bangalow but if we do nothing we will lose it because it will be someone else’s agenda,’ Cr Hunter said.
But Mr Hart said, ‘The department of planning and environment just issued its north coast strategy. Bangalow doesn’t have any growth areas shown, but Byron, Brunswick Ocean Shores do.’
And Ms Coman said, ‘We are still looking at areas to fill houses within the existing settlement strategy. It’s reasonable that we don’t want Bangalow to develop beyond what it is.’
The meeting agreed, with overwhelming sentiment that the village should not be putting its hand up for further developments.
Thursday’s meeting was held on the back of a survey sent to all residents of the 2479 postcode to find out what they most loved and loathed about the village.
Top of the likes were the village/heritage feel, the shops, cafes and restaurants and the range of markets and local events on offer.
Among the dislikes were traffic, access and parking, development and growth plans and the lack of businesses catering to local people.
The survey in turn was prompted by a Byron Shire Council plan to identify five ‘activation sites’ in the town, similar to those nominated in Byron Bay’s recently released Masterplan.
But the meeting was cynical about council’s motivation for the ‘site activation’ with some saying it was ‘putting the cart before the horse’ to do so without a Masterplan .