Former president of Byron Shire, Oliver Dunne, has told The Echo that thecouncil, state government and West Byron developers should not be relying on an 1989 bypass proposal ‘that was intended to relieve traffic conditions for the years 2000 to 2025’.
His response came after he attended the recent Future Forum, organised by the town’s chamber of commerce, Byron United.
He told The Echo, ‘I get the sinking feeling that Byron Shire Council is being pushed toward constructing a town bypass road down Butler Street in order to facilitate increased future development in the West Byron area, rather than being allowed to seek a coherent new plan to resolve the chronic traffic issues blighting our town and its suburbs.’
‘As an early proponent of the Butler St bypass option, I would urge caution on all concerned. When Council first proposed the idea of extending Butler Street to a new rail crossing down next to Browning Street at Mitre 10, it was 1989, and the intention was to overcome the barrier of a railway line which was still in use. Council also needed to facilitate the proposed population growth allowed for in the 1988 LEP.
‘In 1989, Suffolk Park was half its size and the new housing suburb at Baywood Chase and Byron Hills had just been rezoned. The high school had just been opened and the Catholic primary school was proposing to move alongside it. Sunrise Beach still had large areas of undeveloped land to come on stream and likewise the industrial estate.
‘It was intended that the new crossing would allow Council to upgrade the entire traffic management regime right through the town centre, leading eventually to some road closures, others being changed to one way and a move to a slower, more relaxed town centre where bikes and pedestrians would have equal and sometimes better rights with vehicular traffic.
Roundabout at capacity in 2000
‘After I left Council, the council continued the effort, and in 1993 the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was approved and the funding effort was well under way.
‘Then a new council in the mid-90s effectively abandoned the effort and it’s gone around in circles since.
‘The intersection at Jonson and Lawson streets at Timperley Corner had reached its capacity back in 2000 as predicted in the 1993 EIS.
‘You simply cannot get another car through the intersection at peak periods due to the interplay with pedestrians needing to move between Main Beach and the town centre. If the 1989 bypass proposal is just rejigged up as the 2014 bypass proposal and this is held up as sorting out the traffic issues as described above, then the EIS will likely fail, either by Council vote or by court challenge as happened with the 1996 sewerage works upgrade.
‘If that comes to pass, neither Council nor the state government will be in any better shape to let the West Byron development proceed.
‘This rezoning has to be contingent on the bypass EIS approval being safely negotiated through the residents of the town and importantly Butler Street. My sympathy is entirely with the mayor and Council on this one, even if I can’t forgive the Greens for sabotaging the original proposal agreed over 20 years ago.
‘The mayor told the seminar that a new Byron Bay traffic management plan is proposed. Well, in my view it can’t be some long-term aspirational goal – it has to be a critical part of this EIS to demonstrate that this bypass proposal actually works.
‘Why would Council spend a million dollars planning and designing a new road, with a construction outlay of probably $10m plus when you include the extra roundabout improvements and necessary road and traffic changes to the town centre, if the EIS cannot demonstrate that there is a significant, measurable improvement in traffic conditions in the existing town not to mind down the track?
‘Of course, it shouldn’t.
‘What needs to be done is to get all the facts on the table and then the town can decide.
‘As a preliminary to the EIS, we need an independent expert traffic engineering assessment of the catchment from Suffolk Park to Ewingsdale along with costings of other route options including using the abandoned rail corridor, closing off the Lawson Street rail crossing and not using Shirley Street.’
Oliver Dunne was Byron Shire president – before the term ‘mayor’ was introduced – from 1987 to 1990.