The proposed creation of a dedicated sports field in the north of the shire has once again been delayed after Byron Shire councillors last Thursday voted to explore four other sites and engage a recreation consultant.
The decision reflects the staff recommendation, that the site has ‘repeatedly’ been recommended as ‘being unsuitable for the purposes of sports fields for a site that has no guarantees of success in the proposed rezoning process’.
It comes despite contract negotiations which are close to being finalised between the owners of the Billinudgel land and Council for a proposed sports field.
Additionally, in Council’s morning public access, Ocean Shores Soccer Club president Mark Patten said he supports the Billinudgel site and ‘implored’ Council to act, while resident Rob Crossley told councillors and staff that with minimal cost, drainage could address potential flooding.
Resident Michael Sherington blasted the decision, telling The Echo, ‘The majority of the other alternatives have shown to be significantly constrained by various ecological, coastal erosion, flooding, traffic, village amenity issues etc.’
Mr Sherington described himself as the ‘default public spokesman for the New Brighton Village Association and South Golden Beach Progress Association,’ and said that the Billinudgel site was unanimously voted for by all councillors and community at a meeting 18 months ago.
‘It appears the council have backed off yet again with actual funds set aside for the project going to be spent on another external consulting report to further review of the Billinudgel site and other alternatives,’ he said.
Mr Sherington said the Billinudgel site ‘offers greater option for mutli-purpose use.
‘The soccer community wants some fields, change rooms and grandstands, we can add netball courts and outdoor basketball.
‘Other sporting groups will want to come when the simple infrastructure is in place. Billinudgel offers the only real solution for long term expansion. All other alternative sites do not offer any into the future.’
Mayor defends delay
But mayor Simon Richardson defended the delay, saying that ‘as a new Council, we are committed to new sports fields in the north of the Shire but we need to look at each of the potential sites, side by side.
‘To date, this has not been done. Staff have concerns about flooding at the Billinudgel site and there may be constraints at the other proposed sites. But we need an independent expert to look at them side by side.’
Council says it currently has $2.5 million in existing section 94 developer contribution funds and, depending on the site selected, may need to source additional funding to complete the project.
For the Billinudgel site, around $1 million would need to be found.
Cr Richardson encouraged the community to keep an open mind, saying the Council and the community want the same result: sports fields in the north of the Shire.
‘The report could come back that two sites meet the needs of the community, playing fields at one site and hard courts in another,’ Cr Richardson said.
The five sites to be reviewed include the Billinudgel site, extension of the Tom Kendall Oval at New Brighton, land on the southern corner of Tweed Valley Way and Shara Boulevard, Water Lily Park and North Byron Parklands.
The consultant’s report will be funded out of the existing allocated budget for the development of northern shire sports fields.
Mr Sherington added that ‘the council staff have been offered pro-bono services and support from the local community and to date have been stone walled by Council.
‘The community wants to be involved, and sense the whole Helen Street Bridge scenario is happening again with the community wants being taken out of their hands and run by an external consultants model,’ he said.
– Hans Lovejoy