Will Byron Bay’s traffic gridlock be addressed before the first sod is turned on the yet-to-be-determined West Byron Project?
Yes, according to NSW minister for the north coast and Byron resident Don Page MP (Nationals).
It comes as public submissions close this Friday for the proposed estate, located 2.5 kilometres west of the CBD. If approved, it would be the town’s largest suburb in decades.
Mr Page told The Echo, ‘I have told the consultant for the West Byron landowners that I will not support the project unless the Byron bypass has been constructed.
‘We have serious traffic congestion in Byron already and it should not be exacerbated. There are other issues which also need to be considered with their proposal and this is currently happening through the public exhibition and consultation process. I will treat those issues on their merits.’
But are the issues being addressed?
Not according to Council’s planning staff, who say issues remain, which they raised with NSW Planning and Infrastructure in 2011.
Director of Council’s environment and planning, Ray Darney, told The Echo that ‘staff have recommended within the draft submission that the bypass needs to be completed prior to any residential subdivision proceeding at the site’. As for residential density, he says, ‘The current proposed allotment size is too small and the overall density of development is not compatible with the general urban form and character of Byron Bay’.
And similarly, the concerns of flood mitigation raised in 2011 also remain. Mr Darney said staff have recommended within the submission that they are not satisfied with the flood planning levels as proposed by the developer.
‘The flood levels and flood planning levels for the development must be consistent with Council’s adopted flood study and flood management plan, which follows the process in the NSW flood plain development manual.’
However on its website’s FAQ, the West Byron Project claims, ‘The department commissioned WMA Water to undertake an independent review, which supported the modelling and flood planning levels’.
‘There are no developable lots in high flood-hazard risk areas. There will be a negligible impact on offsite peak flood levels.’
But it’s just not roads, density or flooding issues; Mr Darney says there would be a significant amount of infrastructure required to service up to 1,000 allotments.
‘Staff will be recommending to Council that the development should be provided with dual reticulation to recycle water and that the bypass and roundabouts on Ewingsdale road need to be provided by the developer.
‘In addition the trunk drainage system needs to be comprehensively designed and provided by the developer to ensure the quality of stormwater runoff does not impact negatively on the sensitive Belongil Creek.’
Bypass voluntary contribution: developers
The Echo understands that one of the priorities for the current councillors in their first term is to complete a Byron bypass. Given the issue has plagued successive councils for 25 years, it would be quite an achievement.
And with a total cost for the Byron bypass being estimated at around $8.2 million, the developers have said they will make voluntary contributions, ‘specifically earmarked for the bypass’.
They say it’s in addition to regular contributions to infrastructure that developers pay Council for projects.
If the rezoning is approved, they say, $7,000 per residential lot will be contributed under a planning agreement between them and the NSW planning minister.
If approved, it would almost cover the bypass cost if 1,000 homes were built, and would need to be paid upfront.
As for state assistance, MP Page said, ‘Even though it’s a Council responsibility, I have arranged through the minister for roads to pay 80 per cent of the geotechnical study (an important first step in helping to get the project started), estimated at $270,000’.
‘The minister has also agreed to assist Council with additional funding for the construction of the Byron bypass once we know what the full cost will be.
‘The geotechnical study will help determine this.’
While the bypass is just one part of the solution, width improvements to Ewingsdale Road, which leads into Byron, could also alleviate the traffic gridlocks.
Figures were sourced from Civil Team Engineering in Murwillumbah (www.civilteam.com.au) and they told The Echo estimates for such a road would be in the ballpark of $15–$20 million for eight kilometres.
Meanwhile, mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo he is unsupportive of West Byron, ‘certainly not at the scale being proposed, but that is no matter within Council’s power’.
‘The monies we have do not go remotely towards addressing the long-term traffic and road infrastructure needs in Byron Bay. One roundabout alone is around the $1 million mark. In regard to traffic, there would not be a stupider place to plonk a development five times the size of Sunrise [than the site] proposed on Ewingsdale Road. So if the proponents want it, they need to ensure the rest of the community don’t have increased gridlock because of it.’
Plans for the West Byron Project are at http://bit.ly/westbyronplans and public submissions close January 31.
Q&A with developers
Question: The currently proposed minimum 150 m2 lot residential sizes, as I understand it, would be considerably smaller than anything in Byron and surrounding Shires. Is this purely a financial decision and why wouldn’t they be larger to accommodate and reflect a standard residential block size?
Answer: The proposal will provide the opportunity for a range of lot residential sizes as is common in new residential developments and in line with state policy. This reflects changing demographics and demand e.g. as the population ages, people prefer to stay in the area but do not need the large family home anymore, there is an increased incidence of one-person households and demand for smaller homes on smaller lots to accommodate such etc
To put it in context, 41 per cent of the site is proposed as low-density housing (minimum lot size 450m2), 11 per cent as medium-density housing and 37 per cent as conservation areas.
Question: Is there any development control plans that would secure a residential outcome for this project rather than the houses becoming holiday lets?
Answer: We do not believe a DCP can have this effect. The lawful use of the land will be determined by what is permitted in the standard instrument zones and whatever other state laws apply. This is a matter for Council and state government to resolve. What we have envisaged, designed and proposed is a residential neighbourhood for permanent residents.
Question: Also I understood that the West Byron Project recommended a dual carriageway along Ewingsdale Road from the highway and bike paths that would lead into town from the estate.
However WBP’s website FAQ says, ‘Redevelopment of the site proposes new dual lane roundabouts on Ewingsdale Road to service the new population and maintain traffic flow.’
Presuming that the West Byron Project would pay for the roundabouts, and around $6m towards a bypass, is there other contributions that would alleviate the existing traffic gridlock?
Answer: Council has costed its proposed future traffic management solutions (various roundabouts, street widening, etc.) into its s94 contributions plan – all developments, including West Byron, will pay their contributions accordingly. West Byron has offered an additional $7,000 per lot to address traffic problems which are not generated by the project.
Question: How are you working with the state and council so that this project can start with a solid plan of traffic management in place?
Answer: We have consistently worked with the state government and Council to address existing traffic problems.
The state government’s RMS (roads marine services) requested further work on the Ewingsdale Road after our first exhibition. Our consultant Veitch Lister developed the scope of work in unison with the RMS so they were comfortable with the methodology. On completion of the work the results were provided to the RMS who accepted the findings. A copy of this work was also provided to MP Don Page 18 months ago.
Likewise Council officers and the mayor were provided with the DVD and summary reports at the same time. Since then we have provided (as of yesterday January 23, 2014) copies of the same work to all Councillors as it has recently become clear that they were not availed of this information when we originally provided it. This modelling demonstrates that West Byron doesn’t generate the traffic problem. West Byron could be a big part of the solution to the problem though.
* Please note that the article has been edited after Leighton Contractors requested we remove their quote regarding road costings which they say was out of context. The Echo apologises for not confirming the information with them before publication.