A Supreme Court ruling that banned a wedding function centre from the Byron hinterland ridgeline last month said councillors who approved the venue were acting outside the terms of their own LEP.
The function centre, proposed by Bandora Holdings Pty Ltd, was approved by Byron Shire Council in 2014 and upheld by the Land and Environment Court (LEC) last year.
It would have held up to 26 weddings a year, with as many as 120 people in attendance, and provided parking for 30 cars.
It would also have allowed for a large marquee to be erected for each event on the ridgeline of the property, a process taking several days each time.
But neighbour Colin Roden objected to the proposal, all the way to the Supreme court – and won.
The ruling also overturns an amended, toned-down version of the approval passed unanimously by councillors on August 4.
At the heart of Mr Roden’s objection was whether Council – and by extension the LEC – had correctly interpreted the 1988 Byron LEP under which it had been approved.
In their ruling handed down on August 24, judges McColl, Basten and Payne concluded they had not.
Such is the fine balance on which such decisions are made, the judges had to decide whether a wedding venue was a permitted use for a ‘rural tourist facility’.
The judges concluded, ‘the inclusion of the words “may include”, at the start of a list of prohibited uses within the definition of “tourist facilities” and “rural tourist facilities” indicates that the list is not exhaustive, but illustrative. The inclusion of “low scale” in the definition of “rural tourist facility” does not qualify the non-exhaustive list of examples included within the definition.’
In short, just because the term ‘wedding venue’ was not included in the ‘prohibited’ list did not mean it was permitted. And the addition of the words ‘low scale’ did nothing to placate the judges on this point.
They also took aim at the ‘temporary’ structure proposed for the ridgeline, citing the terms of the1988 Byron LEP, which required Council ‘not to consent to the erection of a building or the carrying out of other development on or near any ridgeline, unless no alternative location was available.’
‘The appellant contended that the [LEC] judge made no finding as to the unavailability of alternative locations, in circumstances where there was evidence that other locations on the 10.88 hectare property were potentially available,’ the judges concluded.
Crackdown on unauthorised venues
Council’s director of sustainable environment and economy, Shannon Burt said Council would continue to crack down unauthorised function centres across the shire.
Echonetdaily is aware of at least one illegal wedding venue operating in Federal, causing grief to locals.
‘Staff are continuing to respond to community complaints on unauthorised function centres,’ Ms Burt said.
‘When found to be operating without consent, the owner/s have been encouraged to seek approval and submit a DA to regularise the unauthorised use.
‘Unauthorised functions centres have also been asked to cease operation and or fines issued when this has not occurred,’ she said.