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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

West Byron development plans draw community criticism

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[author]Hans Lovejoy[/author]

The proponents of a planned new housing development for West Byron are substantially underestimating its impact on population and traffic according to a local activist and a former Byron Shire councillor.

Plans for the significant new land release, which would effectively add a new suburb to Byron Bay, are currently on display.

A public meeting held by the Department of Planning and the developers last week also drew criticism about a lack of discussion and unanswered questions.

Activist and representative of the Byron Environmental and Conservation Organisation (BEACON), Dailan Pugh, told Echonetdaily he was disappointed because BEACON had only agreed to attend after the department of planning and infrastructure assured them that they would be given the opportunity, along with other members of the community, to discuss alternative uses of the site and present their concerns directly to the department.

‘The agenda set aside 50 minutes for this,’ he said.

‘Contrary to their assurances, the department refused us the opportunity to have our say; only allowed the developers to make a presentation, and limited us to asking questions of the developers, many of which they refused to answer. The process is meant to consider alternative uses of the site, but the department is obviously not interested,’ he said.

Population increase

While the project managers say they can ‘only deal with broad statistics’, the website’s FAQ claims the overall ‘increase of Byron Bay’s population will be just over 1,000’, for the new development – an estimation that Mr Pugh claims is inaccurate.

‘My experience as a resident of Byron is opposite to this as most of my neighbours fill in garages, rent rooms, illegally convert houses into flats, or run illegal backpackers.’

Mr Pugh says he has informed the department of planning (DoP) of the 1,000 claim and has asked them, ‘to assess this independently and inform the community of the true figures so that they could make informed decisions.

‘I won’t hold my breath.’

The spokesperson for the development played down the claims, however.

‘This figure needs to be considered in relation to overall population trends to determine the likely impact on the population of Byron Bay.

‘The average occupancy rate in the far north coast region is expected to slowly decline in the long term. That expectation is based on government analysis and documents.

‘The NSW department of planning’s Far North Coast Regional Strategy estimates that the region will need 51,000 dwellings to accommodate 60,000 people in the next 20 years, but that does not mean there will be an average of 1.2 persons in each new dwelling.

‘It means that by the time West Byron is fully developed, its net input to Byron Bay’s population will be 850 x 1.2 = 1,020.

‘That is an artificially precise figure at this stage of the process, so we say “just over 1,000”.’

When asked about the inclusion of population estimates in the business and retail areas, the spokesperson for the development said, ‘The study used an average density of 25 dwellings per hectare in the neighbourhood centre, ten dwellings per hectare in the mixed-use live/work area, and 17 dwellings per hectare (not 17 lots per hectare) on unconstrained residential land. We allowed for reduced densities on constrained land.

‘This yielded the estimate of 850 dwellings.’

Traffic concerns

West Byron’s website FAQ claims that estimates by Council and by the West Byron project, ‘indicate that the development will be responsible for about 12 per cent of the total traffic on Ewingsdale Road in about 20 years’ time’.

‘Access to the development itself will be by two main roundabouts. Council’s planning already includes a roundabout at the Bayshore Drive / Ewingsdale Road intersection.

‘West Byron will tap into that roundabout, and there will be another roundabout at the east near the School of Audio Engineering.’

When asked whether traffic generated by the new Sports and Cultural site and proposed hospital were taken into account, the spokesperson for the development said it was, along with other existing approvals including Becton and Bayshore Village (opposite Byron IGA).

‘They were also included in Council’s 2009 “Main Road” 545 traffic study.’

Ex-councillor John Lazarus has echoed similar concerns to Mr Pugh, claiming the plans are based on old projections.

‘Their single proposal would fulfill the entire Far North Coast Regional Strategy projections for housing for the next 20 years for this Shire’s entire coastal strip.’

Other issues addressed on the website include affordable housing, flooding, social impact, water management. For more visit www.westbyronproject.com.au.

The public exhibition time has been extended until November 30. Submissions can be made to West Byron Bay Urban Release Area, Strategic Assessment, DoP GPO BOX 39 Sydney NSW 2001 or [email protected].

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