The West Byron development proposal is to be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) today (Tuesday) by NSW Greens MLC and former Byron mayor Jan Barham.
Ms Barham told The Echo that the site ‘may have been wrongly defined’ and is worthy of investigation. ‘The community deserves to be assured that a project of this scale has not been brought forward for state approval wrongly.’
‘I believe that it is important that this matter is clarified before any assessment of the proposal by the government,’ she said.
The 108-hectare land is currently under planning minister Pru Goward’s determination for large-scale housing/industrial development, and sits just 2.5 kilometres west of the CBD on Ewingsdale Road. The Echo understands that Sydney-based developer Terry Agnew is by far the largest shareholder at around 80 per cent, along with other local investors.
Ms Barham says there appears to be ‘irregularities’ from when the site was defined in 2009 as West Byron Bay Urban Release Area for inclusion in the Major Development SEPP.
It comes after a meeting was held between Ms Barham, local state MP Don Page (Nationals) and members from the Byron Residents Group last week.
MP Don Page’s position
Mr Page told The Echo, ‘We discussed the full range of issues ie koalas, traffic, population projections, acid sulfate soils, vegetation, environment zones etc. They supplied additional information on koalas. We also discussed the meeting they had with the minister.’
When The Echo asked Mr Page if he would support Ms Barham’s inquiry, he said, ‘I believe the inquiry Jan is talking about relates to matters that may have taken place back in 2009 when the rezoning went to the then-state [Labor] government. I don’t have any knowledge on those matters.’
But Mr Page stated his position on the contentious development, and supplied The Echo with his recent template letter for those concerned with the proposal. It says the rezoning proposal raises several issues.
He writes, ‘These include traffic congestion, environmental issues including vegetation, koalas and acid sulfate soils; and potential flooding.’
Mr Page claims that while those who have contacted him regarding West Byron have been both for and against the development, he says he ‘has made it plain that I could not support the proposed rezoning unless current traffic congestion problems were being addressed.’
‘I’ve also indicated that those sections of the proposal that are environmentally sensitive (approximately 40 per cent of the site) should be rezoned either E2 or E3, and that a koala management plan, a vegetation management plan and an acid sulfate soils plan would need to be put in place before any development occurs.’
West Byron history
Ms Barham said that ‘The West Byron Bay Urban Release Area proposal had been rejected by Byron Shire Council for inclusion in the new Local Environment Plan (LEP), but the applicants then made representations to the state government.
‘At the time, the state government had changed the planning rules to allow applicants to go directly to the state for consideration of proposals.
‘The Major Development – State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) – under Schedule 3, provided for residential developments if they were determined by the minister to be ‘important in achieving state or regional planning objectives’ to then proceed to a state-based assessment, rather than consideration by local government.
‘While the area of West Byron was included in the Far North Coast (FNC) Regional Strategy, it was done so on the basis of robust and comprehensive assessments of the site over the previous decade.
‘The inclusion of the lands in the strategy to meet the defined dwelling targets had already been assessed and the scale of the development potential of the site was limited to approximately 230 dwellings but still required further investigation,’ said Ms Barham.
‘It is clear from the council records from 2006 that the required dwelling target of 2,600 for the next 25 years for the shire under the FNC Regional Strategy was to be made up of predominantly infill development with planning defined for 1,300 single dwellings and 1,300 multi-unit dwelling and that this was ‘generally in accordance with Council’s existing settlement strategies.
‘With community outrage over the current proposal, and the fact that the scale and impacts would change the character of Byron Bay forever, I felt it was necessary to back track and check the history.
‘I have also made GIPA [freedom of information] applications to seek information regarding the lobbying that may have taken place regarding this proposal.’
Meanwhile, the Byron Residents Group continue their public relations offensive with the proposal and have claimed the website domain www.westbyron.org.
The home page is an open letter which calls on the landowners to reassess the development. Hundreds of names – many from Byron Bay – accompany the letter as signatories.