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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Bypass plan a destructive deception: residents

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The Grab  the Rail bypass option, proposed by Butler Street residents, which has been ruled out by Byron Shire Council. Source: Byron Shire Council
The Grab the Rail bypass option, proposed by Butler Street residents, which has been ruled out by Byron Shire Council. Source: Byron Shire Council

Chris Dobney

Byron Shire Council’s preferred plan for the Bay’s contentious $10 million bypass has drawn increased ire from residents, who have called it ‘a licence to destroy over a hectare of protected wetland habitat and ruin up to five hectares surrounding when a clear alternative exists’.

The plan involves the clearing of wetland though an existing council road reserve and the eventual construction of a car park on Butler Street reserve.

But in the DA for the plan, which was lodged on July 17, the council says the resident group’s Grab the Rail (GTR) alternative would involve a significant incursion into the nearby nature reserve that would be subject to an Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) approval.

Heritage precinct

In all, the DA considered three options for Butler Street, three for Byron Street and two for Wentworth Street, plus the so-called Grab the Rail option, before plumping for the route proposed by council in 2014.

Grab the Rail says the DA is ‘the culmination of council’s wilful determination to avoid the truth, to ignore local residents and to contrive an outcome to suit another agenda.’

If implemented, the project would ‘critically impact residential, social and community amenity, to irrevocably ruin a recognised heritage precinct and to convert the Butler Street reserve into a multi-storey car park,’ according to Grab the Rail spokesperson Paul Jones.

‘Instead of properly addressing the rail corridor alternative route that is far less destructive, cheaper and easier to build, more effective as a bypass and wholly contained within appropriate infrastructure zoned land, Byron Council has declared the rail corridor for the rail trail and seeks to regenerate that land as a forested heritage walk,’ Mr Jones said.

‘Despite the fact that council were instructed to address the rail corridor route they have gone to considerable lengths to obfuscate and ignore this fact and instead further developed the rail trail concept as if they, not a private organisation, were its proponents,’ he added.

Nature reserve

But the council disputes the GTR option is more environmentally friendly, saying it ‘it appears to travel through the nature reserve’, as do the Wentworth Street options, which were also discarded.

‘Constructing a road through the nature reserve would require additional approval from OEH as they own the land. A road in this location is not likely to be supported by OEH unless itcan be demonstrated it is in keeping with the management plan for the reserve,’ the report states.

‘lf the Grab the Rail option was moved slightly north in this location (to avoid the nature reserve), as per Byron Street Option C, it would face the same issues of impacting on property access, the existing drain and native vegetation within the undeveloped Byron Street reserve. In addition, the majority of the bypass is located in the rail corridor, which is not supported by Transport for NSW,’ it concludes.

Car park proposal

The residents group also opposes the car park construction and the relocation of the Byron Markets to the Cavanbah (sports and cultural) centre in Ewingsdale.

‘The clear intention outlined within the documentation [is] to relocate the farmers and monthly markets. This will have a huge impact on the culture and economy of the town particularly as the Ewingsdale sports centre is the only relocation option offered to date,’ Mr Jones said.

‘The markets as they stand are fundamentally incompatible with the Butler Street Bypass and council intends to first utilise the reserve for the bypass construction compound and then covert it to a fee generating car park,’ he added.

‘Traffic wise, and this is the last tragicomic fact, council’s proposal is declared and remains sadly inadequate, so we go to all this expense and destruction for an inadequate solution, constrained and hopelessly compromised. Traffic data modelling is either rubbery or non-existent,’ Mr Jones concluded.

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  1. The GTR proposal will never happen. It has already been ruled out by council, plus the fact it would take a lot of paper work (acts of parliament etc) to complete the proposal legally. Plus, isn’t the railway the only viable option to solve Byron’s traffic issues in the long term? New roads may be good in the short term, but they all really outlive their usefulness after 10 years or so, thus re-creating the need to destroy more forests to make more roads!

  2. Using Council’s assumption of 2% growth p.a. traffic congestion at Jonson & Lawson will be back to 2015 levels just 8 years after the bypass opens.

  3. There is not requirement for an Act of Parliament to access surplus rail land, Council’s continually acquired and transfer ownership of Crown Land between agencies, Byron Shire Council has already acquired rail land for the Bakery carpark in town and leases rail land for the First Sun Caravan Park – No big deal. Oh and by the way earlier this year their quietly acquired the Sepp 14 wetlands crown land off the end of Butler Street to get in there a wreck a whole lot of damage. We need some fact checking here. Couple of other facts the GTR concept is scaleable, that is it can be staged and expanded as required and the railway line is to be retained for future light rail.


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