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Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Conservative Byron councillors put traffic plan ahead of masterplan

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Jonson Street roundabout, a notorious pinch-point at the entrance to Byron Bay.
Jonson Street roundabout, a notorious pinch-point at the entrance to Byron Bay.

Hans Lovejoy

Byron’s traffic problems have either been courageously tackled or wilfully exacerbated, depending on who you believe from last Thursday’s Council meeting.

The conservative voting block of Crs Ibrahim, Woods, Wanchap, Cubis and Hunter over-ruled independent planning and staff advice and have asked that plans be prepared for the ‘two lanes in’ project.

It aims to construct an additional lane 50 metres north of the Caltex petrol station opposite the police station, and run two lanes from that roundabout to the other at Lawson/Jonson Street.

But the plan by Cr Rose Wanchap was reduced in scope after logistics hampered their project.

Items scotched include widening the railway crossing (which will be required), and a road up along the carpark towards Main Beach was excluded (located just before the second roundabout at Lawson/Jonson Street).

It’s something which Cr Wanchap argues are ‘very minor changes which have been advocated for by previous councils for a decade now.’

‘Our traffic engineer Simon Bennett has produced a past report complete with engineers drawings, plans and approvals for this short stretch of road,’ she told The Echo.

But the project will need to be given to Council’s Local Traffic Committee for consideration, despite asking for ‘advice and comment’ prior to the project’s commencement.

As for cost, $206,000 has been set aside for the project, which will be sourced from ‘within s94 reserved for Byron Bay traffic management.’

During debate, Cr Di Woods told the gallery that, ‘well in excess of $1m had been spent on traffic studies’, and that ‘they all indicated that one of the fixes is to do what’s being proposed.’

Crs Woods also appeared conflicted: she said that while she voted for a town master plan, which is currently underway by consultants McGregor Coxall, she said, ‘I don’t think much will come out of it.’

‘I believe they’ll give us great plan, and don’t question their ability. But our traffic issues have existed for 25 years or more, and they will continue.

‘My understanding from McGregor Coxall is they wanted to drive traffic up to the beach.’

Cr Woods then said that, ‘Any plan that [McGregor Coxall] have which says they can decrease the traffic into Byron is a furphy.’

Reduce v manage

But McGregor Coxall have told The Echo they are confident that they will be able to reduce traffic.

Additionally, they say that as they are in the initial stage, they had not even considered, ‘driving traffic to the beach.’ The head planner behind the town’s master plan, Michael Cowdy, told The Echo that reducing traffic is ‘one of our key goals.’

‘We believe we can solve this, and what we have heard from the community is they want that.’

When asked about previous studies and general recommendations to push more traffic towards the beach, he replied, ‘All those traffic studies have focussed on managing, rather than reducing, traffic.’

‘Historically, planning decisions for the town have been ad hoc. What we are attempting is to produce a considered holistic plan, one that the community has had every opportunity to engage with.

‘In March we have a further opportunity to progress these discussions with councillors and the local community.

‘A series of workshops will further explore what may be possible and in three months time, we will have a strategy for the next ten years to present to everyone.’

Design on the run

During debate, an amendment by Cr Dey to include the plans as part of the Byron Bay master plan was voted down.

A clause included however in Cr Wanchap’s motion states, ‘Where practical and appropriate, this project [should] be designed and delivered with consideration of the Byron Bay town centre bypass.’

A rescission motion to repeal the plans has already been set in motion by Cr Duncan Dey, and will be considered at the next ordinary Council meeting on February 26.

The Echo asked Cr Dey what he hoped to achieve, given the councillors who control the chamber are unlikely to reconsider their position.

He replied, ‘My own reason is that I am once again flabbergasted at how easily those five councillors reach into the community purse.’

‘I am not opposed to the proposal, but want it to take its turn in the queues.

‘I want professionals, not car drivers, to tell us this is good bang for these $206,000 bucks.’

He referred to the decision by those councillors last year to allocate $1m of public funds from roadworks to a rockwall on Manfred Street. ‘Many potholes could have been filled with that money,’ he says.

Panacea?

Meanwhile, Cr Chris Cubis told the gallery he couldn’t see how the master plan is going to deliver a panacea to all the problems Byron Bay has.

‘I can’t understand the position that McGregor Coxall and the general manager have taken; that we should always hold off…

‘Cr Wanchap also put this up before the master plan process had begun.

‘What about the council that takes risks? We spent $200,000 on park and ride in the first year. What was the outcome of that? Can we argue that we won’t get any benefit whatsoever from this?’

Not relevant

Cr Sol Ibrahim also claimed that the master plan ‘is not relevant,’ and proceeded to explain why he believes councillors should set aside big picture strategic planning for short-term goals.

‘If the master plan suggests that we close entry at the Lawson Street roundabout, that will be a significant matter for us to deal with later.

‘This proposal is not suggesting any new infrastructure, it is within the boundaries of the existing roadways.

‘We are talking about bollards that were put in before, and are now talking about removing them. We know Butler Street will have to be redesigned when the bypass is constructed.’ Cr Ibrahim also argued that outbound right- hand turns into First Sun caravan park and the petrol station are ‘just silly.’


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4 COMMENTS

  1. QUOTING directly from Staff recommendations submitted to council before their vote last Thursday:source council agenda

    “A. Impacts on the implementation of the Byron Bay Town Centre Master Plan
    The traffic management funds were being held pending the outcome of the BBTCMP to enable the traffic management initiatives anticipated to be identified by that plan to be implemented. It is however open to Council to use these funds for traffic management purposes associated with the two lanes in initiative. Council needs to be cognisant that these funds can only be spent once and if spent on this project will become unavailable for the BBTCMP.

    B. The direct impacts and downstream effects of this proposal are considerable and the benefits remain questionable, especially without undertaking at very least minor traffic modelling and intersection analysis, which is recommended (and likely to be a requirement of the RMS) so as to better understand impacts or improvements (if any) from what is proposed. Thus there may be a number of unintended consequences of proceeding with the project.

    C. Funding the Project: But based on the plans prepared for this report section 94 funds should not be used for this purpose.
    D. Shirley Street
    Item & Outcomes

    1. Car parking
    58 spaces lost (based on bays of 6m in length)
    2. Restrictions
    ‘No Stopping’ north side Dryden Street to Lawson Street / Butler Street roundabout
    3. RH turn / road safety
    Safety / turn bays lost at Dryden Street, Milton Street and hospital (Wordsworth Street)
    4. Property access
    Right turn opportunities restricted, safety a concern
    5. Bus stops
    Removed opposite hospital, restricted opportunity elsewhere
    6. Lane widths
    3.5m traffic lanes; 2.5m parking lanes
    7. Cyclists
    No dedicated space available
    8. Pedestrians
    Crossing opportunities reduced, refuge at hospital removed
    9. Approvals / consultation
    RMS concurrence required due to regional road, consultation required
    Including business stakeholders
    10. Timelines
    Design / assessment, consultation, approvals, budget / resources dictate
    11. Resolutions
    Council has made several competing resolutions which need addressing

    E. Lawson St
    Items & Outcomes
    12. Car parking
    Five visitor spaces lost in First Sun, up to 15 lost in north side car park
    13. First Sun
    Mixed traffic, potential conflicts / safety, loss of visitor car parking
    14. RH turn / road safety
    RH turn bay lost at First Sun, increased risk at roundabouts
    15. Property access
    All three restricted to left in and left out only
    16. Lane widths
    Minimal at 3.2m north side lane, 3.1m right lane; 3.5m outbound ok
    17. Merge / conflicts
    Moving between inbound lanes and positioning for intersections
    18. Cyclists / pedestrians
    No dedicated cycle space, access at First Sun minimises pedestrian conflict
    19. Property / title / use
    Council car park is community land, which does not permit use as road
    20. Approvals / consultation
    As per Table 1, Item 9 discussion
    21. Timelines
    As per Table 1, Item 10 discussion
    22. Resolutions
    Council intentions with pay parking and master plan”

    re Item 19
    It is not recommended Council use Lawson Street north car park or First Sun caravan park as a thoroughfare to the foreshore. If the purpose is to divert traffic off the Lawson Street / Jonson Street roundabout, then such changes should be considered and assessed again after the bypass opens – expected late 2016. If the purpose is to allow more direct access to car parking, then a boom gate operated car park is recommended

  2. To the above commentator and any other reader, here is the complete story (I was there the whole time) Firstly, I would like to suggest any one who is really interested to refer to the wording of the actual resolution, not the original Notice of Motion which was written two weeks prior to the Council meeting. In that intervening time, Councillors met with a wide range of affected parties and government representatives. A workshop was held. Further consultation with staff occurred. The report from staff was carefully considered. Further debate and staff input was had in the meeting. The result was a vastly different resolution which addressed the concerns regarding the Master plan and community consultation.

    The concern raised by McGregor Coxall specifically related to the future of the beach front. I and many other locals would like to see that area released from all or most of the through traffic. This has been shown through the wide consultations that have occurred to date. Consequently, the final resolution, which I helped author, COMPLETELY removed any proposed changes in traffic movement into the Jonson St car park and Bay St.

    The resolution, which I presume the Mayor and the Greens want to rescind, is simply this. Return inbound traffic immediately before the Butler St round about to its ORIGINAL two lanes. The right lane will permit right turn into Butler St without holding up traffic moving into the CBD. This is what will happen when this roundabout is reconstructed for the Bypass. Discussions with John Holland concerning the rail crossing were positive. Council can apply to relocate the signals and widen the crossing. This will eliminate the pinch point, permitting two lanes to proceed from the first roundabout to the second.

    At the Jonson St roundabout, the right lane would be a right turn only, with the left lane either going straight ahead or turning left. Pedestrians already have to cross three lanes at this intersection, so there is no real change here either.

    These are minor traffic flow adjustments. Should the Masterplan recommend that all inbound traffic not be permitted to use the Jonson St roundabout, such a major change will require a great deal of consultation and redesign. For example, the Bypass is only two lanes. Whether one lane could handle all inbound traffic is questionable. If the bypass became one way inbound, then obviously there would have to be major changes in the CBD for outbound traffic. either way, this is still a long way off.

    Finally, the resolution called for the matter to be returned to Councillors should the Local Traffic Committee identify any issues that might affect the safety of drivers and pedestrians. The LTC meeting was set for the next day. The rescission motion stopped the LTC from even discussing it!

    So that is it. Byron has not been changed forever, the community has not been ignored, the Masterplan is not compromised. The democratic process has worked. An initial well meaning proposal trying to actually do something positive to alleviate traffic was proposed. Concerns were raised. meetings and workshops were held. Staff were heard and respected. Councillors had ample opportunity to ask questions and raise their concerns. Those of us who were actually interested in a result cooperated to modify the proposal. Others were just hell bent on obstruction.They are in the minority, but cant seem to accept that this is how our democratic process works. Their answer is to put up a useless rescission motion to delay positive action, to create a political divide on issues that should be competently removed from politics. Next time you read about the so called ‘conservative’ Councillors, please ponder on the meaning of this word. It means ‘averse to change or innovation’. I and my fellow Councillors who supported this action are hardly averse to change or innovation. We are looking for any small way to improve traffic flow. One million visitors are not going to stop wanting to drive their cars to Byron any time soon. There is no single magic solution. It will take some trial and error and many small incremental changes. Thank you for your time.

  3. “The concern raised by McGregor Coxall specifically related to the future of the beach front. I and many other locals would like to see that area released from all or most of the through traffic. This has been shown through the wide consultations that have occurred to date. Consequently, the final resolution, which I helped author, COMPLETELY removed any proposed changes in traffic movement into the Jonson St car park and Bay St..”

    Hi Sol, by that I assume you mean traffic will not be able to enter the Lawson St North car park from Lawson St and exit onto Bay St and the beachfront, thereby avoiding the Jonson & Lawson roundabout?

    If so, this is a much better outcome.

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