Plans to construct a permanent second lane along Shirley/Lawson Street into Byron Bay by Cr Rose Wanchap have come under fire from the planning consultants that are formulating a masterplan for the town.
The proposal, which passed with a majority vote in Council last year, would also see the Jonson/Lawson Street roundabout link Bay Street via the Jonson Street north carpark.
But such a move has again highlighted the arbitrary planning decisions by the majority of councillors; this project falls outside the master plan process, currently underway.
Additionally, council staff have also voiced concerns over the ‘questionable benefits’ and ‘unintended consequences’ in a report included in the upcoming agenda on February 5.
McGregor Coxall were commissioned by the council last October to provide an ‘holistic consideration of all the issues in the town centre,’ and a report is expected later in the year.
In a letter to council on January 29, director Philip Coxall said that by pursuing the road changes, ‘it is potentially reinforcing the community’s dissatisfaction with the haphazard planning of the centre as well as undermining the holistic masterplanning process.’
Mr Coxall also claims that GTA Consultants, who are involved with the masterplan design, say that ‘current traffic data are inconsistent and focus on managing traffic, not reducing traffic.’
He says that key limitations resulting from Cr Wanchap’s project could include exacerbating the visual impact on Apex Park, increasing vehicles and pedestrians, further degrading the ‘entry experience to the town and spreading traffic congestion to the foreshore’. He also says it could ‘further reinforce the disconnection between the community, town centre and governance.’
As for economic development, Mr Coxall says, ‘It would hinder our team’s feasibility work on one of the key catalyst sites we have identified. Being one of the few council-owned sites, [it] has the potential to provide significant funds which council can use to construct the works required to make the new master plan work.’
Cr Wanchap replies
But Cr Wanchap has defended her plans, telling The Echo, ‘They, like so many others, don’t quite understand what I have in mind. The facts are we have one road into a very popular seaside village.
‘No amount of planning, master or otherwise, is going to alter that fact.
‘Somehow or other waiting in traffic, the state of our toilet facilities, the very antiquated entrance across rusted railway tracks, dilapidated traffic signals, graffiti walls, overflowing bins and the highest priced holiday destination in the state just does not seem to have affected or reduced the numbers who come.
‘Most businesses in town have said they have had their best trading holiday season in many years.
‘I have come to realise that change is very difficult for many to accept and if it “ain’t broke don’t fix it”, so I have considered, as per our traffic engineer’s suggestion, of starting with a very small change.’
Cr Wanchap’s suggestion is to, ‘widen the 50 or so metres of road from the first entrance off Shirley Street into the Caltex to the First Sun carpark entrance and just offer a southern entrance to the Lawson Street North carpark into and out of the First Sun’s spare parking lot.’
‘So no extra traffic will be going to the foreshore, just those who have always gone there and they will still have to enter through the eye of the needle up Jonson street from the Jonson/Lawson roundabout. If agreed to by council, this will at least give a second lane around that crucial Butler Street roundabout for ease of market traffic on Thursdays and Sundays and less stop-starting of vehicles as they enter town. Perhaps at a later date when that small change has been trialled, a “clearway” can be considered for the rest of Shirley Street for a few hours of the day to link up with the second lane around the Milton Street roundabout. Both of these very minor changes have been advocated for by previous councils for a decade now.