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May 17, 2021

Businesses speak out over Byron Bay bypass

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MAYDAY – MAYDAY – One hundred years ago today

One hundred years ago this week, around noon on Saturday 14 May 1921, the 2,000 tonne steamship Wollongbar ran aground on Belongil beach.

Byron’s bypass is planned to pop out here, through wetlands. Council’s initial plans have withdrawn parking provisions to almost all businesses.
Byron’s bypass is planned to pop out here, through wetlands. Council’s initial plans have withdrawn parking provisions to almost all businesses.

Hans Lovejoy

Buoyed by the state’s offer of $10.5m, Byron Shire Council is barrelling ahead to build a Byron Bay bypass up Butler Street.

And while those residents are fighting to get consistency and transparency from council staff and the state government over its obligations to look at other routes, there are also business owners in the CBD that will undoubtedly be affected by current plans.

Byron’s bypass is planned to run through wetlands and exit, as pictured, past Wicked Weasel and Mitre Ten on the left, and a number of small businesses on the right.

Councillors, led by Cr Sol Ibrahim, have reaffirmed their intent twice to pursue this option.

Council staff so far have only provided initial plans which have left all businesses except Wicked Weasel with almost no parking (Wicked Weasel has its own off-street parking).

The only business operator who appears to be unconcerned is Peter Gifford, managing director of Wicked Weasel.

He told The Echo, ‘I have no problems with it; the bypass won’t affect our business.’

Meanwhile Mitre 10’s manager James Mitchell said that parking and access to his fuel bowser could be a potential problem. ‘We have no idea what to expect as I haven’t yet spoken with council’s consultants,’ he said. He added they had visited his shop but he missed seeing them.

A map of the proposed Byron Bay bypass. Source Byron Shire Council
A map of the proposed Byron Bay bypass. Source Byron Shire Council

Uncertain future

And as for the historic old Norco building, which is home to a number of small businesses, it also appears unclear how they will be affected.

Byron Music’s new owners Nick and Madeline said they were still waiting to see more details and had concerns over parking and noise.

‘A benefit of being slightly out of town is having more parking,’ said Nick.

Meanwhile Brett Crawford from Eastcoast Building Consultants told The Echo, ‘I have concerns regarding car parking and noise. I am considering moving my business to the industrial estate. Increased traffic flow past this area will not be beneficial to my business.’

Shirsha Marie, who runs the Byron Bay Martial Arts studio, says that when the bypass is put in, it will make the running of her business ‘unsustainable’.

She teaches and practises the eastern arts of Taiji, Qigong and Hapkiyusul.

‘The three arts I teach are all based on health and meditation practices, so the noise and activity, both during construction and thereafter, will make operating the school extremely difficult.’

Music studios

And below Ms Marie, there are three music studios at ground level.

The Doublebassment has been operating as a band rehearsal and recording space for around five years.

Manager Mauricio Laratro says that artists such as Angus Stone, Playing For Change, Wantok Sing Sing, Jeff Martin, Watusi, Allensworth (US) and Xavier Rudd have all rehearsed there over the years.

‘It’s also been a place for local musicians to hone their skills: Gabe and Cecilia Brandolini, JaFFa, Tora, Capture, Kyle Lionhart, Kit Bray, The Hotentotts and Mr Speaker have all at one time been involved with the space, whether as an album launch, recording or rehearsal.

‘The loss of parking, and traffic noise, will make it impossible for us to operate and it appears we are being forced out by poor town planning by councillors.’


Next door, Studio Nine’s Simon Seven goes one further and says he will be ‘out of business’.

‘I’ve blown around $15,000 in getting the space useable as a recording studio, and I can’t see how I will be compensated.

‘Instead council should build a proper bypass that runs to Red Devil Park’, he said.

Meanwhile, council’s director of Infrastructure Services, Phil Holloway, says landowners and businesses along the bypass route have been, and will continue to be, contacted as part of the Byron Bay Bypass Butler Street project.

‘The preliminary concept plans have been prepared on the current preferred alignment and assist in having conversations with stakeholders to clarify the proposed route and how potential impacts can be addressed.

‘Following Easter, one-on-one meetings will be held with directly affected landowners and businesses,’ he said.

Car parking being looked at: staff

As for the issue of the car parking near Mitre 10 and the old Norco building, it’s also being looked at by the project team. ‘The land near the Norco building was originally purchased by council for future road needs, but over the years has been utilised for car parking by nearby businesses.

‘Part of the bypass project is to look at where supportive car parking can be provided in nearby locations,’ he said.

Mr Holloway said about 150 people dropped by the recent market stalls with suggestions and comments on the draft plans.

‘Staff are currently compiling a Frequently Asked Questions sheet which will allow the wider community to review the types of issues that have been raised. This will be available on the web and sent to interested people who have subscribed to Council’s bypass e-news,’ he said.

Disclaimer: the author of this story is co-owner of the Doublebassment Studios.

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  1. This bypass is a big mistake as it will not reduce, but increase, the traffic into town and, what is worse, will flood with cars some of the, up to now, quiet residential areas, as the great majority of vehicles will be heading up north to town and beaches and very few down Bangalow Road. Byron should learn from many historical European cities with exactly the same problem, and that solved it by setting up large free parking areas out of town, conveniently served by public transport in loop to the preferred destinations, while increasing the street parking fees for non residents in order to encourage its use. It is obvious that by stuffing more cars into town, be it by building the bypass or the proposed double lane, traffic problems, with the inherent pollution and noise, will just increase. Thousands of cars rushing up, for example, through a school area like Tennyson Street on their way to the beaches, is that a good idea, really? Because that will inevitably happen as soon as the bypass is built. Is this the Byron Bay we want?

  2. I’m with you Juan! I’ve mentioned the Italian Hill Town model before. It’s the only way to secure the iconic tiny town centre from gridlock and dysfunction all around. We need to stonewall this damaging Council until the next election and make sure we vote in representatives who care about the sensitive environmental ecology of the neighbourhood rather than the ‘rape and pillage’ mentality of the current majority of councillors.


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