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Byron Shire
January 29, 2023

West Byron housing figures disputed

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Sydney developer Terry Agnew, seen here spruiking the benefits of his Great Keppel Island development, may now be the major 'landholder' at West Byron.
Sydney developer Terry Agnew, seen here spruiking the benefits of his Great Keppel Island development, may now be the major ‘landholder’ at West Byron.

Hans Lovejoy

A ‘theoretical maximum’ of 1,100 houses is how West Byron developers have sought to explain their calculations on the predicted size of their proposed development, located just west of Byron Bay.

It comes after last week’s letter to The Echo by project manager Stuart Murray, where he criticised The Echo for reporting the 1,100 figure, despite that number being published on the West Byron website.

The 108-hectare parcel, which includes wetlands and protected koalas, would see the largest development in the shire in at least a generation. And along with the NSW planning department and minster, the developers have come under intense public scrutiny with questionable reports and population estimations. The state planning minister is expected to decide on it shortly.

A group of eight developers – some local – own the land and have been attempting to rezone it since 1997. Through a PR agent, the developers say they contributed nearly $200K to a council study at the time, ‘which found that the land was suitable for urban development.’

Sydney-based developer Terry Agnew of Tower Holdings is the latest to buy into the project after Crighton Holdings became insolvent earlier this year. The Australian (News Ltd) reported at the time that Mr Agnew acquired nearly 80 of the 108ha in a $7.7 million deal, making him by far the largest shareholder.

While the developers won’t comment on the figure Tower Holdings paid for the Crighton land or the size acquired, the PR agent said that they think ‘it’s salient that Terry Agnew has owned personal property in Byron for more than six years.’ Agnew’s development aspirations include a $2b luxury resort for Great Keppel Island, which is also mired in controversy.

In response to pressure from residents, the homepage of www.westbyronproject.com.au now includes an explanation of expected housing figures. It starts with a question: ‘I’ve seen reports of more than 1,100 dwellings on West Byron – it’s on your website and yet you say it’s incorrect?’

While the developers explain the number, ‘will be significantly lower than this’, they claim that ‘None of this can be accurately defined until the detailed design phase.’

‘Under our rezoning application, we have asked for 52.06 hectares [of the 108 hectares] to be available for low or medium density housing. [This includes] 41 hectares for ‘low density’ (550m2 to 1000m2 lots) and 11.06 hectares for ‘medium density’ (250m2 to 500m2 lots).

‘There is also the reality of market preference and what lot sizes will actually appeal to the market and therefore sell.’


Byron Bay ecologist Dailan Pugh explains why the planned new suburb of West Byron isn't needed at a recent community meeting.
Byron Bay ecologist Dailan Pugh explains why the planned new suburb of West Byron isn’t needed at a recent community meeting.

But local environmentalist Dailan Pugh says he’s ‘flabbergasted by the latest misinformation’.

He told The Echo that additional dwellings are allowed in the business and industrial zones, ‘so the numbers are actually higher.’

‘These figures bear no resemblance to what the current rezoning and Development Control Plan (DCP) is proposing, notably 450m2 minimum lot sizes in R2 zones and 200m2 minimum lot sizes in R3 zones (with allowance for these to be reduced to 150m2).

‘I have mapped the Department of Planning and Environment’s (DoPE) proposed rezoning, as exhibited, and come up with a theoretical maximum of 1,534 housing lots allowed, which increases to 1,718 if the minimum allowable lot size of 150m2 in R3 zones is applied.

‘I appreciate that such a calculation does not allow for roads, though even if a 25 per cent discount is applied, I come up with 1,151 dwellings (max 1,289).

‘Thus, the DoPE’s claim of 1,100 dwellings appears an accurate estimation of potential allowable dwellings.’

A spokesperson for DoPE told The Echo that they assess estimations on housing numbers from population predictions, not ‘theoretical maximums.’

The population prediction figures presented by the department have been criticised by the Byron Residents Group. They claim there is no housing shortage, but an oversupply of dwellings relative to population growth.

Map showing the 108-hectare proposed Map supplied by West Byron Project shows the planned size of the site compared to the Arts & Industry estate to its north. Source westbyronproject.com.au
Map of the 108-hectare proposed development shows the planned size of the site compared to the Arts & Industry estate to its north. Source westbyronproject.com.au

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  1. Interesting that the DoP say that they assess estimations on housing numbers from population predictions, not ‘theoretical maximums.’
    This is a rezoning application. Lot yields should be based on land capability first and foremost. The Department seems to have lost the plot. Theoretical projections of population growth (with little basis in reality) are no way to plan land releases when the land in question is severely constrained by environmental factors and lack of infrastructure.

  2. Doesn’t Terry Agnew own the property burnt down in Watego’s Beach a few years ago?
    And isn’t he the same person rebuilding a huge monstrosity on the same block without having to take into account consideration for any Sustainabilty or Energy Efficiency that would normally be required for a new house because it is just a rebuild. Rumors are it has numerous air conditioners,electric pool heating,floor heating,not very energy efficient or sustainable. Hope the rumours are just rumours.

  3. There appears to have been no response from DoPE to the very sound and clear point made by Dailan Pugh – that the State’s own development strategy, identifying housing needs for different regions, has been met – indeed exceeded, in Byron Shire.
    It’s reported that landowners have been trying to get the land rezoned for years. So what? They bought it speculatively, but that doesn’t make it suitable for development. That doesn’t make it needed strategically. It doesn’t even make it just OK.
    Byron Bay doesn’t need this rezoning and it doesn’t need the massive overdevelopment proposed. The State doesn’t need it either, because its Strategy is being met comfortably. So who needs it? Only the speculative landowners, to realize unearned profits with the massive environmental and traffic costs falling on the current residential population.
    What is the State’s interest in this rezoning anyway? It’s clearly not significant in strategic terms – as explained by Dailan Pugh. Is it significant for some other reason? One can only speculate how it might fit into the scenarios that have been revealed in ICAC hearings of late.


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