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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Development stranglehold

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Ballina Shire is growing quickly. A new Land and Environment Plan (LEP) is now in place, and one of the largest rezonings of land for residential use on the north coast was approved in the final meeting of the current council.

The LEP will take the shire up to 2030. Last week the council voted 7–2 (Crs Johnson and Meehan against) for the controversial Cumbalum Precinct B development plans. These plans allow for at least 6000 more residents to live on Ross Lane near Lennox Head in the next 5–10 years.

Mayor Phil Silver praised the decision, saying it would guide residential development in the shire for the next 20 years. However some concerns have been raised about the pace of growth.

According to incumbent councillor and mayoral candidate Jeff Johnson, the traffic report concludes that vehicle movements will increase to 32,900 per day on Ross Lane and Lennox Head will not cope with it. The roads in and around Lennox are in a poor state, and according to Cr Johnson Ross Lane will cost millions to upgrade. ‘We need to plan so that infrastructure is implemented simultaneously with development, rather than lagging behind,’ he said. ‘Lennox Head has major infrastructure needs right now without adding more development to place more pressure on a small village.’

Council, in their LEP, identified significant parts of the Precinct B land as environmentally protected zones E2 or E3, only to change the LEP after the development application was lodged. The land zoning changed from environmental protection to medium density in just a matter of weeks, despite the boasts of councillors and staff that a great deal of time and thought went into the original LEP to get it right.

‘We need to have a clear plan of what the community wants Lennox Head to look like’, says council and mayoral candidate Keith Williams. ‘LEPs and other strategies don’t have mechanisms to enforce what communities want. We need to maintain the quality of life that our community treasures.’

Flooding and drainage is also a problem in Lennox Head. Ross Lane and The Coast Road have been under water many times in the last 12 months, and the main street gushed with water earlier in the year. With more development up the hill Lennox Head will feel the strain and major inconvenience of cut roads and an inundated village.

Ballina Shire is popular. More people want to live here, and those who grow up here want to stay and not move away. But if we are going to fit all these people in, the incoming council needs to address the social and environmental impacts this is going to create, and ensure infrastructure is in place well ahead of time.

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