Byron residents are being urged to attend an urgent public meeting tomorrow (Thursday) night to resist ‘unchecked’ over-development of the town by controversial plans which would add thousands of houses and vehicles to the town.
Last Friday’s rezoning approval by the state government of the 108-hectare site for the West Byron housing/commercial development angered residents who say the up to 1,100 houses proposed would make traffic congestion along Ewingsdale Road much worse than it already is.
They also say a large area of wetland and koala habitat there will be severely affected.
The equally contentious plan for around the same amount of houses on farmland around the proposed Byron Hospital site at Ewingsdale has also sparked concerns the town’s main entry would become a gridlock most of the year round, even with the proposed $10 million bypass at the CBD edge.
And the state government is also backing the developers’ bid for tiny, 150-square metre allotments in both subdivisions, an unprecedented move in state planning for regional areas, adding to fears it will resemble high-density Gold Coast-style development of two-storey ‘McMansion-ettes’.
The call-to-action by the Byron Residents’ Group (BRG) against both major proposals and other ‘unchecked over-development’ will be debated at tomorrow’s meeting at the Byron Bay Community Centre at 6.30pm.
Ballina MP Don Page and Byron shire councillors have been invited to attend, as well as candidates in the upcoming state election.
‘The people of Byron are outraged at the town’s future being decided by developers, aided by members of council’, BRG president Cate Coorey said.
‘The meeting will be an opportunity for the community to channel their outrage into constructive action,’ Ms Coorey said.
‘At West Byron, the minister for planning has now zoned core koala habitat for housing, allowed mapped actual acid sulfate soils to be drained and dug down to a metre without further assessment, failed to ensure development does not commence until the bypass and other traffic solutions are implemented, and taken the unprecedented step of allowing subdivisions down to 150 square metres in both residential zones,’ she said.
‘Byron Shire Council is now deciding whether to accede to the minister for planning’s request to allow 160 houses, a nursing home, and a shopping centre/highway stop at Ewingsdale.
‘This is being forced on us despite it being contrary to the regional strategy, the Local Environment Plan and all planning requirements and situated on prime agricultural land and on the already ridiculously overburdened Ewingsdale Road.
‘This so-called “seniors” housing is additional to the already-zoned West Byron and unwanted by the local community,’ Ms Coorey said.
BRG plans to lobby all candidates for the March election in the seat of Ballina on the issue, seeking their support and asking them what they would do about them if elected.
‘There is such strong feeling about what is being done to our town without community consent,’ Ms Coorey said.
‘The people of Byron will not just let this happen; we have fought for this town before, which is why it is the beautiful town that everyone wants to come to,’ she said.
‘We will vigorously resist the people who only see this town in terms of personal profit.’
Byron Shire Council’s consent powers over the developments were taken over by the government and it now only has limited planning authority over the proposals under a template mandating higher density allotments proposed by the developer and allowed by the state.
Meanwhile, proposed land planning changes for Ewingsdale are back out on public exhibition unti 8 December.
A Byron Shire Council spokesperson said land at Ewingsdale on the Byron Bay entrance would see additional uses allowed following a change to the Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 (LEP).
‘The new uses would allow seniors living, medical centre, business premises, restaurants or cafes and shops to be built at the site,’ the spokesman said..
It’s the second time the proposed changes for the site have been on public exhibition.
As part of the latest exhibition, Council staff will be at the Ewingsdale Hall on Monday 25 Novemberfrom 5pm to 7pm to answer questions about the proposed permit use changes to the site.
‘Following the previous exhibition, Council staff had recommended that a site specific Development Control Plan (DCP) be prepared prior to the lodgement of a development application by the land owner,’ the spokesperson said.
‘It was also recommended that the commercial floor space was reduced to a total of maximum floor area of 1,200m2 and the medical centre usage reduced to a maximum total floor area of 1,800m2.’
Council’s planning chief Ray Darney said a DCP ‘would ensure that buffers would be provided between existing properties, along with height restrictions and access not being allowed through Avocado Crescent and Parkway Drive’.
He said traffic was a concern on Ewingsdale Road ‘and will be an important issue for the proposed development’.
‘Traffic movement and access would need to be addressed within any future development application,’ he said.
All submissions from the first and second exhibition will be assess and reported to council for consideration, he said.