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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Byron Bay traffic plan meets resistance

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Byron Shire Greens Councillor Rose Wanchap
Byron Shire  Councillor Rose Wanchap

Hans Lovejoy

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.’

Inconsistent data

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.

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  1. There is a very simple way to improve the traffic flow through the middle of Byron and that would be to “cut” the roundabout in half at the intersection of Jonson and Lawson Streets. If there is no need to give way to traffic there are no hold ups.

    From West to East from Lawson St you would be able to turn left and go straight ahead.
    From South to North on Jonson St a left turn only would be possible.
    From East to West from Lawson St you would be able to turn left or go straight.
    To enter Jonson St from East Lawson or South Jonson you would do a U-turn at next roundabout
    To enter Jonson St from West Lawson you would do a U-turn at next roundabout. You could also bypass the middle of town by turning right into Fletcher St.

    All it would take is some barricades…

  2. For heaven’s sake ! A serious big picture plan has been commissioned – let the work be done before commencing debate, let alone taking action. If Council has been discussing this for over a decade … a few more months won’t hurt. Piece-meal, knee jerk, fragmented traffic flow planning IS NOT THE WAY TO GO. Why waste money on proper planning if you are going to act without it informing the process. Also, if staff & consultants are both going – “hold on” – I think the numbers & good sense are not on the councillor’s side in this instance.

  3. Economically & environmentally the best long try solution is to fast track the return of rail. According to Basil Cameron Pacific highway traffic will triple in ten years. Terrorism of roads! Liz Farrely smh ‘the road to ruin is paved with more roads’

  4. I do not understand why Councillor Wanchap — or any councillor — is entitled to preempt the design work of Master Plan of Byron Bay Town. I do not see how a “trial” ( not yet executed, due to occur in April 2015) morphs into a “recommendation for permanent change” ( as to be put forward at tomorrow’s council meeting in Feb) AND costs $50,000. This queue jumping should not be supported by any of the councillors. Let the Master Plan process proceed! Where is a mayor when we need one?

  5. Congratulations to Cr Wanchap for putting forward a solution…….now.
    Our elected officials seem to think we as residents are happy with ongoing talks and holistic planning whilst we sit in traffic jams every time we want to return after a trip out of town.
    The solution may not be perfect but it does offer some immediate relief.
    As a community we pride ourselves on being ” green” but the exhaust gases from kilometres of stagnate cars which we allow to happen every day clearly demonstrates our officials ” don’t walk the talk”.
    Seems everyone is looking at replacing State and or Federal elected officials and maybe Byron needs to look at the same if our elected officials cannot solve this issue in a reasonable time.

  6. At the Council meeting when Ms Wanchap came up with her not so brilliant plan, it was only passed by 1 vote – 5 for/ 4 against. Mayor Richardson spoke against it as he said it was premature to introduce another short term solution when there was a master plan being studied, and it was a waste of money.
    It will not solve any traffic problems. The traffic will just go round and round further along the beach and come back down to Lawson/Fletcher St and the other roundabout near the Library. It is a stupid idea. We need to work on the bypass and be patient with the master plan. John Sparks has a great idea for the bypass which is not the one that West Byron are pushing as that is insanity. The West Byron bypass starts long after the entry/exit Road into West Byron, is just at the start of Shirley St and will not solve more than 5% of traffic congestion. They are not to be trusted!


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