Cr Rose Wanchap is again pushing for Byron Shire Council to develop a multi-level carpark/retail precinct in Byron’s CBD, and the issue will be raised at this week’s Council meeting.
The idea is aimed at creating residual income for the cash-strapped council, yet repeated advice from staff is that the project is premature.
And while she has requested that a study – including a retail component – be included with Byron Bay’s master plan, staff have pointed out, ‘a multi-level car park has been included in the brief to consultants previously.’
The Lawson Street north carpark is positioned between the First Sun Caravan Park, the pool and the top end of Jonson Street. Its current capacity, according to staff, is 90 spaces.
In her background notes, Cr Wanchap claims that 360 extra parking spaces ‘could mean council will be able to generate $2m to $3m per year with very little outgoings.’ A top floor function room/rooms are also included in her plans, which she claims ‘will be very successful owing to the popularity of Byron Bay.’
The carpark would also be accessible by turning from Lawson Street, just before the roundabout.
Access was previously available; however, that was closed some years ago.
Additionally the ex-Greens councillor wants the West Byron developers to consider paying for it from promised voluntary contributions.
So are staff in support and what would it cost? According to a staff report from last year, the cost would be in the $8m ballpark. And nope, they don’t think it’s a good idea.
Not yet anyway.
General manager Ken Gainger wrote, ‘While the commercial advantages of locating a future multi-level car park within the Lawson Street north car park are recognised, many in the community see such a shrine to the motor vehicle being placed in such a visible location as a blight on our attractive foreshore precinct.
‘Asking McGregor Coxall to undertake a feasibility study… would be asking them to undertake work that is contrary to the strategic direction that is being formulated, as espoused by Mike Cowdy at council briefings last week. Perhaps a better way forward is to await the master plan and then determine how a multi-level car park fits within that plan and where it would be appropriately located.’
‘Two Lanes In’
And in a somewhat pointed statement in her notes, Cr Wanchap says it is ‘clear’ that ‘providing a second lane into town will relieve some of the bottle-neck and long hold-ups on Shirley Street.’
Cr Wanchap recently gained the support of fellow councillors Hunter, Woods, Ibrahim and Cubis to ask staff to prepare for a contentious plan to widen the road into town on Shirley Street.
Known as the ‘Two Lanes In’ project, it will cost approximately $200,000 and aims to provide a continuous second in-bound lane commencing 50 metres north of the Shirley/Butler Street roundabout in Byron Bay through to the Lawson/Jonson Street roundabout.
But it was unsupported by staff and critics claimed it would only move the traffic congestion into the town.
Additionally, it appears muddled within the context of the bypass plans, with a ‘community handout’ describing ‘Two Lanes In’ as ‘separate from (but to be considered in conjunction with) the bypass project.’
A request by town planning consultants McGregor Coxall to hold off with the plan until theirs is complete was rejected by the majority councillors.
When asked what supporting evidence there is for the claim that the second lane will relieve the bottleneck, Cr Wanchap replied to The Echo, ‘A second lane has been the subject of numerous reports and studies, as has a multi-level carpark on the Lawson Street north carpark. [Former Greens mayor] Jan Barham tried to get the second lane in on previous occasions but was unsuccessful.’
But while Ms Barham says she supports widening Shirley Street up to the roundabout opposite the Caltex station, she told The Echo it was too problematic to continue across to the next roundabout.
‘Making two lanes across Lawson Street to meet Jonson Street was considered unachievable owing to State Rail’s unwillingness to allow widening of the road, among other reasons. This has all been tried before’, she said.