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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Old people’s home for aerodrome?

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The Northern Region Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) will today consider a development application for the construction of a $78 million retirement village and nursing home adjacent to Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.

The controversial plan is opposed by the Greens, local residents and the president of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee (EHMAC).

Opponents say the land for the project contains toxic residues from its previous use. They also claim the development process has suffered from planning irregularities and will lead to excessive noise for future residents. They also believe it will cost council money to clean up, which will eventually be passed on to residents.

On Tuesday, the Greens took the extraordinary step of introducing a motion into the NSW Upper House calling on the JRPP to reject the application.

EHMAC president Richard Gates has demanded that the committee refuse to conduct its hearings today.

‘I’d like to see it postponed until all the information is available and until proper integrated planning is considered by the Heritage Council, which includes the Air Park. It looks very much to us as if it’s not appropriate right now to consider this matter,’ he told local media this morning.

He has commented elsewhere that there has been no risk assessment in the event of an aircraft accident in the vicinity of the aerodrome.

Greens NSW MP and planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said, ‘The sheer weight of issues surrounding this development should see the JRPP rejecting it out of hand.

‘The land in question is contaminated by tar compounds, asbestos, herbicides and pesticides, some dating back to World War II, others apparently from practices of the council’s work depot.

‘An environmental report commissioned by the council in early 2005 concluded that the area poses significant risk. This information was not provided to the local community in the 2006 rezoning application.

‘The cost to local ratepayers of cleaning up this contamination is estimated to be over $4 million. This amounts to a multimillion-dollar gift to the developer.’

Mr Gates says the development would cost ratepayers a further $5 million by way of subsidy to the developer through allowing the sale of 24 blocks of land.

‘The proponent has stated that the proposal will not proceed unless it can sell off the 24 blocks of land for separate development, a major aspect of the proposal which has never been to council or the public for consideration,’ he said.

The proximity of the land to the heritage-listed Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome means future residents will be subjected to noise levels above the maximum traditionally allowed for residential areas. Richmond Valley Council got around this by increasing the maximum allowable noise levels in the area.

But the move still represents a clash with state and Commonwealth policy, which expressly forbids building nursing homes near airports, according to Mr Gates, and pre-empts a multi-level government review of regional aviation.

Mr Shoebridge said, ‘if this development is approved, it is almost certain that pressure from future residents will see the council moving to restrict flights at the aerodrome, or even see it closed’.


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