Opponents of the West Byron housing development, which was approved by the state government on Friday, say there is still time for outgoing Ballina MP Don Page to intervene over critical issues, including traffic, koala habitat and acid sulfate soils.
The controversial development was announced by an anonymous planning department spokesperson last Friday and is scheduled for government gazettal this Friday.
Mr Page told ABC radio on Monday that no development would be allowed on acid sulfate soils and that koala habitat would be protected at West Byron, while also stating that no development should be allowed until the bypass is constructed and operating.
Byron Residents’ Group (BRG) president Cate Coorey, said today that ‘West Byron will be Don Page’s legacy for Byron Bay and it is important for the Byron Bay community that the worst of its impacts are minimised’.
‘We request Don Page to urgently contact planning minister Pru Goward and make these commitments conditions of consent for her approval of West Byron. His integrity is on the line here,’ Ms Coorey said.
The group is strongly critical of the fact that Ms Goward has so far failed to comment on the development, which has been on the drawing board for a decade and was taken over by then planning minister Kristina Keneally for state determination in 2009.
But a departmental spokesperson told Echonetdaily, ‘the department regularly responds [to] and announces matters such as a rezoning as a matter of core business. This is standard practice across the NSW government’.
He pointed to other recent departmental announcements, such as the fine imposed on North Byron Parklands for excess noise, as examples.
BRG has been consistently critical of the number of proposed home sites in the development and Byron Shire Council has today joined the call for lot sizes to be reviewed.
‘Given that the developers of West Byron have consistently claimed their development will be limited to 850 dwellings and both they and Don Page have refused to assess traffic impacts beyond this threshold, we ask Mr Page to also limit the consent to a maximum of 850 dwellings,’ Ms Coorey said.
Byron Shire planning director Ray Darney told ABC radio this morning that the council would be seeking an increase in the minimum block size, which he equated with Sydney’s notorious ‘McMansion’ blocks, as part of the site’s Development Control Plan.
‘It’s very similar in density to the outer suburbs of Sydney, suburbs such as Campbelltown, which have those type of smaller lots in order to achieve more affordable house types,’ Mr Darney said.
‘One benefit here is that the sites could be more affordable but I think that from a broad perspective of greening in our environment, particularly our residential areas, that we’d been looking at trying to make a submission to have larger lots,’ he added.
Points of contact
Meanwhile, opponents of the development keen to make last minute submissions have been struggling to find anyone in government to speak to.
Environmentalist Dailan Pugh told Echonetdaily he has spent hours on the phone being redirected from section to another.
‘If you want an exercise in futility try phoning the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) to find anyone to speak to,’ he said.
‘Having waited for 15 minutes to speak to the receptionist she tried putting me through to a number for [the contact person named on the DoPE website] that dropped out, and when I then tried the number it was disconnected.
‘When I rang back I was put through to the Urban Renewal section, though that number didn’t exist either. At least that time I was put back to reception, they then put me through to another section who told me that [the website contact] no longer worked there and there was no one available to speak to me except for a student planner who would take my details.
‘While waiting to be put through to him I was hung up on. I then tried the minister’s office at 11.30 am and was told someone would get back to me.
‘Having wearied of waiting I rang back at 3.15 and was told they had a number for me to ring: they wouldn’t give it to me but insisted there would be no problem and put me through to it, I got an answer machine at the DoPE. I rang back the minister’s office, with some muttering about putting the minister’s decision online tomorrow I was told that someone would ring me back. Waiting, waiting…’ he said.
The DoPE’s anonymous spokesperson told Echonetdaily that the department’s information centre was ‘the vestibule where we ask people to go to give comments on particular proposals. Although in this case the approval has been granted, people are still welcome to leave their comments and make their questions. They may not have all the answers at their fingertips and some calls may need to be returned. Their number is 1300 305 695.’
Byron Residents’ Group is also urging the community to contact Don Page asking him to ensure that the consent conditions protect koala habitat, exclude development from acid sulfate soils, limit development to 850 dwellings, and ensure that development does not commence until a bypass is complete.
Meanwhile, the long-hoped for anti-corruption inquiry into the contentious development’s approval is ‘effectively annulled’ after the state government’s go-ahead on it, according to MP Jan Barham.
The Greens MP and former Byron shire mayor referred the approval process to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), but said any hope of an investigation now appeared unlikely.
‘The ICAC referral has been effectively annulled by the fact the State Government has approved the development,’ she told APN Media.
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