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Byron Shire
March 2, 2024

Resident power forces council backtrack over Ewingsdale

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Ewingsdale residents keep up the pressure at the Byron Shire Council meeting yesterday (Thursday, October 30). Photo Eve Jeffery
Ewingsdale residents keep up the pressure at the Byron Shire Council meeting yesterday (Thursday, October 30). Photo Eve Jeffery

 Chris Dobney

Ewingsdale residents will get a second chance to have their say on a proposed retirement village in their midst after Byron Shire Council yesterday voted to require the developer’s proposal go out for public exhibition again.

Council’s about-face came in the form of a rescission motion, withdrawing its previous resolution – taken less than a month ago – to change the zoning of the land in its new LEP.

The remarkable decision was passed with just one dissention, Cr Alan Hunter, but followed heated and at times rowdy debate.

From the outset, the passion of Ewingsdale residents was on show, with many of them holding placards supporting the rescission.

Two per cent support

During public access three residents spoke supporting the rescission motion, revealing that a door-knocking campaign of the area over two weekends had shown less than two per cent support for the plan.

By contrast, 94 per cent of the 234 residents interviewed said they did not support the proposed development.

Proponent Leigh Belbeck said during public access that she was ‘not fast-tracking or circumventing but following the gateway process’.

She said ‘200 information leaflets were sent out to residents,’ brandishing a glossy DL brochure, and added advertising had also been bought in The Echo ahead of a series of information sessions she ran.

‘Approximately 100 people attended three meetings,’ she said. It’s not Belbeck’s fault if people weren’t aware or feel they didn’t have time to come.

‘A market research survey shows strong support from older residents,’ she added.

But the Ewingsdale residents responded with the figures from their survey, with progress association member Kirsty Nugent saying the community felt they were, ‘told what [Belbeck] want to do, we weren’t asked.’

She also questioned ‘why the rights of one group of people to do what they want with their land overrides the wishes of the other 94 per cent of local landholders?’

Developer Leigh Belbeck addresses Byron Shire Council (October 30, 2014) Photo Eve Jeffery
Developer Leigh Belbeck addresses Byron Shire Council (October 30, 2014) Photo Eve Jeffery

Developers ran consultations

The plan originally got the tick to proceed to the state government’s gateway process from council in September last year after the government gave the go-ahead for the construction of Byron Central Hospital on the adjoining block.

But mayor Simon Richardson was the first to admit the public consultation process was flawed because council had allowed the developers to run the process rather than doing so itself.

‘It was the worst decision I’ve made in six years and I accept that error. At that stage we had no inclination to do a growth management strategy and we had no opportunity to look at this strategically. What has changed is we now have that strategic planning process,’ he said.

Cr Paul Spooner also urged fellow councillors to reconsider the motion in the light of the survey result.

‘People can change their mind because of new information. I think it’s very reasonable to have 28 days to have another look at it,’ he said.

‘Residents are ringing a warning bell on the planning processes enacted by this council over last couple of years. I certainly want to acknowledge I made a mistake and want to see it picked up today.’

Cr Chris Cubis raised the spectre of the state government taking over planning control of the area if the council backtracked on its decision.

‘If we rescind this motion are saying we want this motion to be handed over to the state?’ he queried.

‘The people of Ewingsdale were informed. Whether they chose to “get informed” is another issue,’ he added.

Monty Python moment

Cr Cubis then launched into a tirade at the mayor, blaming him for ‘a torrent of abusive email’ he had received over the issue.

Cr Richardson retorted Cr Cubis had only his ‘own stupidity’ to blame, whereupon Cr Di Woods declared no confidence in the chair and demanded a vote.

The matter was put to the vote, with only Crs Cubis and Woods voting in support.

State won’t take over

Under questioning from Cr Sol Ibrahim, planning director Ray Darney said he didn’t believe the state had the appetite to take on another Byron development, even if approached by the developers to do so.

‘It’s unlikely the department of planning would take over the project. Bayside Brunswick has been with them for 10 years and West Byron for six years,’ he said.

He added, ‘we could likely get an extension but it wouldn’t be 28 days because we’d need an exhibition period after that. We would ask for six months,.

Ultimately, Cr Ibrahim brokered a deal with the motion’s mover Cr Duncan Dey, which saw a clause deleted relating to the investigation of sewerage requirements without it having to go to amendment.

Cr Ibrahim argued, and Cr Dey accepted, that as sewerage would be a necessity for the hospital it would be available for the site at a minimal additional expense.

This face-saving arrangement allowed the pro-development councillors (with the exception of Cr Hunter) to vote together with progressive councillors to back the rescission and give the Ewingsdale residents their say.

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  1. Do residents of Ewingsdale believe that they are ageless and will never need a retirement village or close hospital themselves in the coming years? I would think it a blessing that I had the option to stay in my very own area/village once I had the need to move into a retirement or aged care facility as I got older, rather than having to move away from the place I call ‘home’, and from my friends and neighbours. Have any Ewingsdale residents considered this point?, rather than automatically assuming a NIMBY attitude (thats, Not In My Backyard).

  2. I can see why the ‘recent’ residents of Ewingsdale don’t want ANY further development in their neighbourhood. They bought into rural acreage and of course want it to stay that way. It was a lifestyle choice for them.
    On the other side of the argument however, with a hospital and ambulance station being built on the adjoining land to the Belbeck holdings and given some of the other horror industrial works et al that have gone up out there, it would seem to me that if any further development were to happen at Ewingsdale, a sensitively designed senior living development of the kind proposed by Belbeck holdings, would be the best possible use for that site.
    I went out to the public meets held in the Ewingsdale Hall, and thought the design was well considered and had a minimum impact on the neighbouring community. In fact it might well provide a buffer for them against increasing highway traffic noise etc.
    My great grandparent original family home sits on Ewingsdale road and has been in a sorry state surrounded by chaos for decades. The current use of that land, as an organic farm, coupled with the possible development of a small discreet shopping and medical centre opposite, only enhances the aspect of that property.
    And I’m sure once in place, the Ewingsdale residents would be more than happy to make use of the grounds, walkways and shops rather than queue for hours to get into the CBD.
    If any further development adjacent to the new hospital is to go ahead in future years, then I have to say, Ewingsdale residents, that you might be rejecting the best there is to offer.

  3. I think the above to responses are missing the point. Due process needs to be followed to ensure that everyone in Byron Bay in particular, and Byron Shire has a voice on this matter as the development will have infrastructure impacts. Additionally my question is – has Belbeck applied for, and received funding approval from the Federal government for a new aged care facility? If they haven’t , it is something that will be required to ensure that all Shire residents who want to utilise the facility have access under Federal Aged and Community provisions. Otherwise the facility will require residents to be privately funded.

  4. Here are a few points people including the Belbeck’s and any future developers might want to consider:
    – residents have basically said they are not against aged care/over 55’s/retirement living. They have asked why the need for high density dwellings in a rural/spatial setting, and further, if this development is allowed, will it set a precedent for other 2-storey high density developments through the Byron shire. Think Coopers Shoot, Tyagarah, Broken Head, etc.
    – the brand “Byron Bay” is a strong selling point, especially for people looking for the life change which many of us have taken. Developers are going hammer and tong just up the coast (Kingscliff, Pottsville). Just like in 2000 when we (30yr olds) were told if we don’t buy a house now we probably never will be able to, the baby boomers are being told there is a shortage of over 55 living and aged care facilities. BS
    – affordability is the biggest joke in Byron Bay. The reality is (just like West Byron) it will be over priced development, affordable in the sense that it’s cheap compared to say a house on the beach at Wategoes.
    – sewerage. If Byron Regional Hospital goes ahead as planned, and then the adjoining lands are developed, this would mean the rest of Ewingsdale would someday soon be hooked up to sewerage. Considering Ewingsdale is a acreage style suburb this could mean each block is potentially open to subdivision once sewerage is connected. Over time, and probably not long, this could see a doubling of dwellings and residents.
    Some people may say well that’s just progress, but the issue is Byron’s infrastructure is that of a small country town by the coast. And that is essentially why we like it. What’s the point of changing it into those places like the ones we moved from.

  5. Interesting That the two pro development writers Jan and Sam have no family names, they could be the developers, – or in Perth.
    Who said the Ewingsdale residents don’t want old people looked after, it is possible they want a concept which is kinder to the environment and the existing residents,- and also older people. Pack them all in to boring boxes on the main road, next to a hospital, (and probably mortuary) and forget about them until they shuffle off, is a depressing old model. Older people I know would not deign to be cared for unless they could not remember their name, or are very unwell. If I had the money I would make them a glorious garden full of birds and beautiful trees and flowers creating a decent buffer zone and minimal or only urgent use of a back lane (on parkway residents boundaries, and make any Nursing home building a low cost to the environment one, watch the joy of the old people in their outside living world- and keep Shire residents happy. There is other land in Ewingsdale that older people could buy if they want to be close to hospital and specialists. I cant imagine any would want to be overlooking a highway and nursing home, and close to a shopping centre, the worst of the legacies of this age – ghastly. Who wants another shopping centre ! a community garden and earth education centre would be better.

  6. my initial reaction to this development proposal and the Ewingsdale residents reaction was that residents were reacting in a ‘Nimby’ kinda way. then i realized that as Elizabeth (above) rightly points out, it is not just the development that is at issue, it is the process. Due process must occur here, so that all parties who have an interest can be involved, not just the Ewingsdale residents, developers or council. this is especially important in the current council environment where many feel that council now favours developers because of the actions of Rose Wanchap in turning on her constituents,by going independent. she really should do the honourable thing and resign too!


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