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Byron Shire
August 3, 2021

Retail hub planned for hospital surrounds

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Hans Lovejoy

Plans for seniors housing, aged care facilities, a supermarket, retail premises and medical facilities have been put to the state government by Byron Shire Council for ‘Gateway’ determination after they were tabled at last Thursday’s meeting.

The proposed development would be located on agricultural land either side of the proposed Byron Hospital on Ewingsdale Road.

But before it’s given the nod, councillors will seek to impose conditions, including traffic and noise impact reports, sewage management clarification, heritage assessment of ‘buildings and surrounds’ and an assessment of possible site contamination, due to its former usage as a cattle dip station.

Council has also requested a master plan that will ‘adequately address’ the requirement that aged care facilities ‘are constructed prior to, or concurrently with, the retail/commercial precinct to guarantee that the seniors housing component is constructed.’

Deputy mayor Diane Woods told Echonetdaily she was in favour of the development despite voting against the plan with Cr Basil Cameron.

‘My opposition was to the change in the recommendation that required the developers to make a plan that includes construction of the residences prior to or concurrently with the retail section,’ Cr Woods said.

‘I don’t think it is right of Council to instruct the applicants how to do their development as we are not privy to their financial arrangements and it may not be possible to comply with such a restriction.

‘If it is impossible to do so, then the whole development could fall over and that is not in the best interest of the applicants or our community.’

Despite no starting or completion dates being announced for the proposed Byron Central Hospital, Belbeck Investments Ltd, on behalf of Inverell based company Jewelbond Pty Ltd, is seeking a rezoning to allow the development proposal.

Getting older

Within the lengthy and repetitive 209-page document for the proposal, Belbeck Investments claim that Byron’s ageing population ‘is expected to almost triple from 2,760 in 2011 to 7,660 in 2036, making up to 17 per cent of the population.’

And while it spruiks the economic benefits it would provide and its desirable location, the proposal fails to mention any impacts on neighbours.

There is however,  a community consultation component in the plan which would provide an opportunity for submissions.

Council planners said the proposal ‘may be inconsistent with the relevant regional and local strategic plans as it is promoting urban and commercial development on land not identified for such purposes.’

While claiming it ‘is not sound strategic planning’ when viewed in the context of current strategic plans, staff say the proposal ‘does provide social and economic benefits for the community in a region with a rapidly ageing population.’

Additionally it’s argued that ‘substantial areas of both parcels are clear of vegetation’ and the location is ‘generally flat and contains no high conservation vegetation’.

‘Habitat value is limited to a watercourse in the eastern parcel. The subject land is located immediately adjacent to the Ewingsdale settlement and is in close proximity to the Pacific Highway.’


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  1. The planning of a Retail hub must be one of the more inane ideas to occupy the time of Byron Shire’s Council. It is quite hilarious that, on the record, Cr. Woods can state that even though she voted against, in fact she is for it… however she has concerns over the welfare of the Applicant which apparently hold more weight than the residents of Byron.

    Looking at at he seventy or so vacant retail spaces downtown will give a good barometer of the thriving economic climate here- just crying out for re-zoning to create more vacant space.

    It is one thing if, in fact, Byron does need more housing for retirees. However, a new hospital based on age demographics, using ‘projections’ that are twenty-three years from now is equally misguided. Build a new hospital now and it will of course be semi-obsolete in 2036!

    Once again Council fails to do what is best for their constituency.

    Cr. Woods statement: ‘the whole development could fall over and that is not in the best interest of the applicants’ makes you wonder who funds and signs her pay check!

    If the building of a retail complex is explained away by the developers as being a convenience for the retirees or hospital staff, they obviously are not familiar with the concept of subsidised shuttle bus service. Scheduled service actually knits together a retired community as the short shuttle trip creates a firm, scheduled social event giving residents an opportunity to get out, connect with old and new friends for the trip, and perhaps get assistance from fellow shoppers as necessary.

    Discussing building a hospital and aged care facility is one thing, but it is a crappy and somewhat underhanded trade-off by the developers ‘throwing a bone’ to Council to attach the building of commercial properties to the deal….especially as it is exactly what Byron does not need.

    And knowing Council, there is no doubt if they went forward to approve this new project, they would-as usual- get stuck with a grossly disproportionate share of the infrastructure costs.

    A note to BSC- Guys, Please TRY to stick to projects that actually serve the community. Focus on retiree housing if necessary. A new hospital is good…but when is it needed? Now, in five years, ten? or in 2036?

    And Cr. Woods: try to confine your exuberance and focus to the people who elected you. Concentrate more on their needs than the wishes and desires of Corporate Development.



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