To add insult to injury, Byron Shire Council is now proposing changing its new Local Environment Plan (LEP) to allow the construction of some 166 houses (for seniors on 250m2 lots), a 60-bed aged care facility, a supermarket and speciality shops, and a medical centre on Ewingsdale Road, just up the road from the proposed 1,100 houses, shopping centre and industrial area at West Byron.
The Ewingsdale development is proposed to be built on ‘Regionally Significant Farmland’ around the historical Higgins Homestead and the proposed Byron Shire Central Hospital.
It is contrary to the 2007 Far North Coast Regional Strategy in many ways, will significantly aggravate congestion on Ewingsdale Road, will contribute to the overloading of the sewerage works, and will limit future expansion of the hospital.
Despite this, it has already been approved by the minister for planning.
There are currently in the order of 17,000 car movements on Ewingsdale Road every weekday. This development will result in the order of 4,000 additional daily car movements. This is on top of the proposed (grossly understated) 6,000 daily car movements out of West Byron.
The West Byron Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) was commissioned in 2006. It was designed to cope with a proposed 1,400 new dwellings from infill development of Byron Bay and Suffolk Park, a significant proportion of which have since been approved.
The Ewingsdale proposal is claimed to result in an additional load on the STP equivalent to 238 new houses. This is in on top of the 1,100 houses (as well as shops and factories) proposed for West Byron. The existing STP can obviously not cope with this unplanned development.
Existing ratepayers are being expected to foot most of the bill for the upgrades required for these two developments, though we are most likely to only be able to afford a few patches to our increasingly overloaded infrastructure.
In agreeing to allow the Ewingsdale development, the minister for planning has once again ignored the Regional Strategy and disenfranchised the community, but this time it is at the behest of our own Byron Shire Council.
Back in 2011 the previous Council decided that the Ewingsdale proposal should be included in the Growth Management Strategy they had previously resolved to prepare, so as to allow it ‘to be considered in the context of urban growth and centres development throughout the Shire, and in the context of the Ewingsdale locality’.
Most importantly this would have given the community their right to decide if such development was needed or appropriate for this site.
Last year this Council unanimously decided to sideline the community by referring the proposal to the minister for a Gateway Determination so as to over-ride the new LEP and avoid the Regional Strategy’s requirement to prepare a Local Growth Management Strategy.
The claimed need for both the West Byron and Ewingsdale developments is based upon the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE)’s population projections detailed in the 2007 Regional Strategy.
DoPE then assumed that Byron Shire’s population would grow by around 3,100 people by 2031, requiring an additional 2,600 dwellings to house them. Council was thus required to deliver an average of 104 new dwellings per annum.
Though the DoPE’s recently released Far North Coast Region Residential Submarket Analysis found ‘population growth to 2011 has occurred at a much lower rate than anticipated but that dwelling growth has surpassed expectations’.
Growth is now projected to decline down to 0.1% after 2016. DoPE’s growth projections have halved to some 1,675 additional people from 2006-2031, which equates to a need for only 1,400 dwellings.
Houses have been increasing faster than the population. Over the eight years 2006-2014, Byron Shire approved a total of 1,523 new dwellings. We have been approving an average of 190 dwellings each year. According to the DoPE data we have already surpassed our new 2031 target.
Because of the high house values and rentals in Byron Bay we are sucking in development from elsewhere in the region. We are growing at almost twice the rate required by the Regional Strategy, while none of our adjacent councils are even meeting their growth targets.
We have many more approved subdivisions awaiting development. The minister has approved the concept plan for around 160 dwellings at Bayside Brunswick.
Council has already approved subdivisions at Mullumbimby and around Bangalow which are yet to be fully developed, and Council is now considering subdividing the Broken Head quarry into 42 house lots. There is also the capacity for over 1,000 new dwellings as infill in our existing urban areas.
It is absurd that DoPE are now justifying their claim that West Byron is of State Significance because the state needs more land at Byron Bay for housing. The minister has no right to determine West Byron based on DoPE’s lie.
Neither can the minister justify imposing another 166 houses and shopping centre upon us at Ewingsdale in total contravention of the new LEP and Regional Strategy.
You have until 12 August 2014 to comment to Council. If you want to oppose this development don’t be fooled into thinking that Council can do anything as they ceded their power to the minister, who has directed Council to make the necessary changes to the LEP by November.
Don Page is the only one who can convince the minister to change this decision.
* Dailan Pugh is a respected north coast environmentalist