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April 19, 2021

Byron population boom fears unfounded says council

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Luis Feliu

Byron Shire Council has hit out at claims it is planning double the shire’s current population.

A senior planning officer says there is no intention in council’s draft Rural Land Use Strategy, now on display, to release 3,800 hectares of rural land for residential living.

In a recent Echonetdaily article, local conservationist Dailan Pugh said the 3,800 hectares in question was  ’the biggest land release in Byron’s history’ which, in gross area, was ‘equivalent to ten new West Byrons plus ten new Ewingsdales’.

‘If you allow them to get away with this, they will include these lands in the current regional strategy and, like West Byron, there will be nothing you or anyone else will be able to do to stop them proceeding in the future,’ Mr Pugh said (see https://www.echo.net.au/2016/05/doubling-the-population-is-byron-on-steroids/)

But council’s director  of sustainable environment and economy, Shannon Burt, said Byron shire has been forecasted to have about 3,750-4,500 additional dwellings by 2036, equating to ‘a maximum of about 10,000 people over the next 20 years throughout the entire shire’.

Ms Burt said the draft strategy was primarily an ‘enabling’ document ‘that identifies future rural settlement opportunities in appropriate locations that best suits community needs’.

‘It looks at potential areas where development could take place and there is no intent to release 3,800 hectares of rural land for residential living,’ she said.

Ms Burt said the draft strategy aimed to ‘ensure that our rural hinterland is highly regarded as a place to live, work and enjoy’.

‘We need to look at how we can ensure our agricultural farms remain viable, protect the biodiversity, support small businesses to prosper in the hinterland, safeguard the lifestyle and plan for infrastructure needs to support additional growth, should it occur.

Respected north coast environmental activist spokesperson Dailan Pugh Photo Sharon Shostak
Respected north coast environmental spokesperson Dailan Pugh says Byron’s fragile ecosystems won’t cope with doubling of the current population as he says is forecast in the draft rural land use strategy now on display. Photo Sharon Shostak

‘Importantly the draft strategy recognises that while rural lifestyle living remains a relevant part of the housing mix, most of our shire’s future population growth will be housed in our urban areas.

‘We’re keen to hear what the community thinks and encourage feedback by 20 May,’ Ms Burt urged.

But Mr Pugh stuck by his claim saying that ‘contrary to their claims 3,800has is the gross area that they have mapped for residential release’.

‘Council has mapped 2,700ha for release as large lot residential, community title or multiple occupancy, this is rural residential development,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘They have mapped another 1,100ha for potential release as urban land, and if they later decide not to develop it for urban lands it automatically becomes available for rural residential development.

‘Council’s strategy doesn’t just limit rural residential developments to the mapped areas, they also allow them throughout the shire subject to limited constraints.

‘As I pointed out, only part of this gross area is developable as some is constrained.

‘As we found at West Byron a lot land mapped as constrained can later be released for development.

‘At Ewingsdale the whole area that staff recommended for development was mapped as constrained. So we will have to wait to see how much will actually be developed.

‘Council has gone over the top in allowing large lot residential, community title and multiple occupancy throughout our rural areas.

‘Though it is totally outrageous that they have identified enough land for urban development for 15,000 houses.

‘Once land is identified as potential urban land in a strategy the developers can take it straight to the state for approval. They must remove those lands surplus to the regional strategy’s targets,’ Mr Pugh said.

Facts and figures

Ms Burt in her release issued a list entitled ‘Let’s check the facts’:

•    Byron Shire Council is now proposing to double the shire’s current population by releasing 3,800 hectares of rural land for residential development
•    Byron Shire Council’s draft Rural Land Use Strategy identifies 1,100ha of land as suitable for the creation of seven new towns: one south-east of Ewingsdale (Balraith Lane), one at Skinner’s Shoot (Yager’s Lane), one south-west of Brunswick Heads (Saddle Road), three north and west of Mullumbimby (Clays Road, Dudgeons Road, Coolamon Scenic Drive), and one west of Billinudgel.

Fact:  There is no proposal to release 3,800ha of rural land for residential development.  The draft Rural Land Use Strategy identifies a number of localities to be investigated for possible village or urban settlement in a Residential Strategy (in preparation), which collectively total just over 1,000ha.  The potentially developable area of all localities identified is around 750ha but not all of these localities may be suitable for urban/village development. And for any that are found to be suitable (in a Residential Strategy) the amount of ‘developable’ land may be considerably less than area identified for investigation.
•    With West Byron’s 1,100-plus houses poised to overwhelm Byron Bay’s infrastructure, 4,600 additional houses is the last thing Byron Bay needs.
Fact:  The draft North Coast Regional Plan identifies housing targets for Byron Shire of between 3,750-4,500 additional dwellings between 2011-2036.  Discussions with Department of Planning and Environment confirm that this figure already includes dwellings yet to be constructed in existing ‘undeveloped’ residential zones as well as new dwellings to be used for holiday letting.

 •    Council’s Rural Land Use Strategy identifies another six rural areas totaling 2,732ha for Large Lot Residential, Multiple Occupancy and Community Title developments. Some 88ha of this is specifically tagged for large lot residential.

Fact:  Of the six rural areas identified in the draft Rural Land Use Strategy for Large Lot Residential, Multiple Occupancy and Community Title development opportunities, approximately 680ha is mapped as potentially developable subject to more detailed investigations. However, such opportunities can only be realised where there is sufficient landowner interest to provide an acceptable standard of road infrastructure at no cost to the wider community,’ Ms Burt said.

To provide feedback on the plan, visit http://yoursaybyronshire.com.au/draft-byron-rural-land-use-strategy.

Previous council media release at http://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2016/04/12/draft-rural-land-use-strategy-on-public-exhibition

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