A large-scale seniors housing and commercial precinct is before Byron Shire Council again this Thursday (April 7) and, according to staff, the draft DCP submitted by the developer includes ‘issues not previously considered’.
The 15-hectare proposal would surround the new Byron Central Hospital on Ewingsdale Road, and has been slowly working its way through the approval process.
But the latest plan would require a ‘significant rework’, staff say, before council can consider its release for public exhibition.
Developers John and Leigh Belbeck from Belbeck investments are asking council to amend the Byron LEP 2014 ‘to enable seniors housing, medical centre, business premises, restaurants and cafes, and shops.’
The report by director of sustainable environment and economy Shannon Burt and development planning officer Christopher Soulsby highlights the many issues that have dogged the proposal from the start.
No strategic planning
Inadequate traffic management plans have been flagged again, as has the lack of an overarching strategic planning strategy for the site.
Strategic planning is the third tier of planning ‘instruments’, after the LEP and DCP. Other surrounding shires operate with these; however, Byron Council is yet to adopt one.
It is expected that the draft residential strategy will be presented to Council by June 2016.
Strong community opposition was also mentioned in the report.
In an effort to move forward, Ms Burt and Mr Soulsby recommend proceeding with a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA), which would see the developer fund a roundabout at the McGettigans Lane intersection with Ewingsdale Road.
So how did it get to this stage?
The contentious project was endorsed by the controlling council faction of Crs Ibrahim, Woods, Hunter, Cubis and Wanchap in September last year.
At the time, it appeared to be embraced on emotional grounds rather than with any sound planning principles.
Opportunistic and problematic
In their report, Ms Burt and Mr Soulsby said that, ‘The planning proposal is an opportunistic response to the decision by the state government to locate the new Byron hospital on rural land adjacent to the subject site at Ewingsdale.
‘It has been publicly exhibited twice and the community feedback on both occasions has been mostly opposed to the planning proposal.
They say the top issues are ‘traffic and congestion, impacts on the Ewingsdale character and quality of life, density and height of buildings, and excessive number of dwellings.’
Not best use of land
They even say the preferred use put forward by the current landowners may not be the ‘best use of the land.’
They also warned that, ‘Approving this planning proposal is pre-empting the outcome of a future strategy’.
‘The absence of a detailed traffic study resulted in significant delays to the site’s consideration. Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) advised Council on August 1, 2014 that the work undertaken by the proponent was inadequate and a demand transport model was required.
‘At the time the proponent declined to undertake this work as they believed that the traffic assessment provided with the planning proposal was adequate for the purposes of the planning proposal process.
‘The new traffic study now provided by the proponent has shown that the location of the commercial precinct on the western portion cannot be accommodated and needs to relocate to the eastern portion.’