Byron Shire Council says it did not ignore an alternative proposal to reroute the Byron Bay bypass through the railway corridor adjoining its approved site but rather it ‘would not contemplate committing ratepayer or taxpayer funds to such a significant project on land that it does not own.’
The council has been served with a Land and Environment Court application to overturn the Byron Bay town centre bypass Development Application (DA) approval recently issued by the independent Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP).
Instigated by the Butler Street Community Network Incorporated, a group of Butler Street residents, the court action seeks to stop the construction of the town centre bypass along Butler Street, which is currently a no-through road.
Council’s legal services coordinator, Ralph James, said the Butler Street Community Network’s intention was to have the bypass constructed on the parallel rail corridor and it was therefore challenging the development approval.
He said the Butler Street route was identified within the 1988 Byron Local Environmental Plan as the location of the town centre bypass.
‘As part of the recent development application, a Preferred Route Report was completed along with an Environmental Impact Statement and OEH approved Biobanking Statement.
‘As is normal for council planning practices, various bypass routes have been considered over the years. The Butler Street alignment comprises existing road network, road reserve and council-owned land so council will be the owner and custodian of this land in perpetuity.
‘The rail corridor is not council-owned land and the council would not contemplate committing ratepayer or taxpayer funds to such a significant project on land that it does not own,’ Mr James said.
Council’s general manager Ken Gainger said the town centre bypass was a vital piece of road infrastructure needed to ease current traffic congestion and is widely supported by our community.
‘As the numbers of visitors who come into Byron continues to grow, our road network will become even more chaotic if we do not start to create and build solutions.
‘Our community has told us through the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan that progressively making the town centre more pedestrian friendly is a priority and we need to keep the cars on the periphery.
‘Alleviating some of the traffic pressure and opening up the rail corridor as a green space with pedestrian access from the Butler Street Reserve are key components to achieving this community supported goal.
‘While we appreciate that some Butler Street residents do not want the road to be upgraded, their primary concerns will be alleviated by the implementation of the independent JRPP planning conditions.
‘Butler Street is the designated route which is now supported by the independent planning umpire (JRPP), is supported with substantial state government funding and has the Roads and Maritime Service on-board as the appointed construction authority,’ Mr Gainger said.
Council has based its project planning around a construction commencement in February 2017.
The matter is currently listed for a directions hearing on August 29.
Council has said it will ‘pursue the expeditious hearing of the appeal in accordance with the Court’s practice.’
Mr Gainger said that the council has been ‘anticipating the lodgement of an appeal by the Butler Street Community Network and has taken this into account with project timing.
‘We are well prepared to defend these proceedings,’ he said.