Debate continues to rage about what will replace an unprepossessing weatherboard and fibro cottage at 9 Station Street, Bangalow, ahead of Byron Shire Council’s final decision on the matter on Thursday (June 26).
After rejecting two previous sets of plans, the council has been in conciliation with the developer, as directed by the Land and Environment Court, with a modified design emerging from those discussions.
The architect, John Gray, of Archimages Architecture, met with around 60 local residents on Tuesday, together with council representatives Ralph James and Ray Darney.
The three-storey plus basement shop-and-dwelling complex would be, in the words of one audience member, ‘the biggest building in Bangalow’.
Nevertheless, proponents have made a number of concessions: reducing the housing and increasing the commercial ratios to meet with the requirements of the new LEP; reducing the height of all of the floors; removing a rear balcony facing the Showground; leaving wider setbacks on the side boundaries and requiring the removal of just one, instead of two, street trees.
Mr Gray told Echonetdaily he believes the amended design he unveiled ‘fits with the new LEP and has addressed most of the community’s concerns.’ He added that he believed the revamped design, which removes a driveway and adds greenspace to the south side of the building, is the best of the three the developer has shown to the public so far.
Impact on schoolkids
But not all those in the audience were so sure, several saying the previous design was better, as the new one required all traffic accessing the underground car park to travel via Station Lane, at the rear, which is also used by children at the adjoining Bangalow Public School.
Cr Rose Wanchap said she thought the revised plan in this respect was ‘worse than the one previously rejected by council.’
She called for the previous plan to be reinstated but was told by Mr Darney, ‘we’ve gone past that point.’
Bangalow Public School principal Susie Boyle queried ‘how much risk management has been done over how to minimise danger to kids who use Station Lane?’
Ms Boyle, who regularly helps children navigate the lane when making their way to after-school activities at the RSL added that ‘no increased risk to schoolkids is acceptable’.
‘We have asked council to put flashing solar signs and a pedestrian crossing or safety island on Byron Street but nothing’s happened. We’ve been told maybe by the end of 2015.’
Mr Darney agreed that as part of the works council ‘would have to resolve safety arrangements for the kids because there are going to be other applications on the lane.’
He suggested kerbing and guttering the laneway may be an option but an audience member questioned how that would be possible as ‘the lane is barely wide enough for trucks now’.
Mr Gray said, however, that all deliveries and rubbish removal would be via Station Street, not the lane.
A member of the Bangalow Public School P&C said there would be ‘lots of trucks and dust while development was being built, with a classroom and a hall right on Station Lane, used throughout the day.’
‘I’m also concerned about potential complaints of noise [from the school] from future residents,’ she added.
Mr Darney responded that, ‘the same issue prevails from A&I Hall,’ which is made of metal.
Mr Gray said it was, ‘an issue the owner is aware of and we have had discussions about how to mitigate [external noise] in the design of the building.’
He added the building would have a ‘five star rating’, with solar hot water and electricity and water recycling on site.
Bulk and scale
Other issues raised during the meeting revolved around the mock federation style of the building, which was widely deemed to be out of character with the remainder of Bangalow.
Former Byron Shire councillor and long-time Bangalow resident Jenny Coman said, ‘to simply say the new building ticks all the boxes is to ignore other elements of the LEP and DCP.’
‘The scale and bulk is totally out of context with other buildings in street,’ she said.
‘Station Street is part of Bangalow’s Heritage Area, which according to the plan requires “identifying desired elements of the existing built environment and desired future elements”.
‘The bulk and scale of the proposed building in no way confirms with other buildings in the street,’ Ms Coman said.
Cr Sol Ibrahim concurred, saying it was, ‘simply obvious that there are no similar single buildings with eight dwellings’ in the area.
Tony Hart said he was concerned council was considering going into the Land and Environment Court without a heritage advisor.
‘Council saw fit the first time to get an independent heritage advisor, he said.
‘For the second time, for some reason, you didn’t’ see fit. Now you are going to court it is imperative to get an independent heritage advisor, not a hired gun.
‘This is going to be the largest residential building in all of Bangalow. We need to consider it with extreme sensitivity.’
Mr Hart added he would ‘really like to see document from council’s planners to explain why they rejected the proposal the first time yet approved it the second time.’
(In voting against the second application, Byron Shire councillors went against a staff recommendation.)
Mr Darney said he believed the architectural issues had been addressed in council’s conciliation with the planners.
‘The heritage consultant they have hired is the one we would have hired,’ he told the meeting.
He added that ‘the main issue in court will be the impact on neighbouring properties.’
If Byron Shire Council fails to approve the amended plans on Thursday, the issue will return to the Land and Environment Court on June 30.