By Hans Lovejoy
The next stage of creating a train service from Belongil into Byron’s CBD has passed its latest hurdle with Byron Shire Council allowing a change in condition that will allow for railway infrastructure, including a rail shed, two railway platforms and tree removal.
While the development approval (DA) was granted on September 17, 2015, the applicant Byron Bay Railroad Company (BBRC) came back to council to request the deletion of a condition which requires the landowner (TfNSW) to place a coastal-erosion restriction on the title of the land.
Specifically, Condition 15 of the approved DA requires an imposition of a section 88E instrument to be placed on the title of the land in relation to coastal erosion.
At last Thursday’s council meeting, the Greens all voted in favour of the motion – Crs Jeanette Martin, Michael Lyon, Sarah Ndiaye, Simon Richardson – along with independent Crs Basil Cameron and the Nationals’ Alan Hunter. Crs Cate Coorey (independent), Paul Spooner and Jan Hackett (both Country Labor) voted against.
It sparked concern from residents likely to be affected by the train service; the Sunrise Progress Association (SPA) and Belongil Action Group Association (BAGA) said in a statement on Friday that the ‘unprecedented action’ allows an exemption for the proponent, the Elements of Byron resort, from ‘a core requirement to adhere to the shire’s coastal erosion policy.’
Previously they claimed that if approved, it would be unfair on everyone else who is compliant with the shire’s current coastal policy.
SPA president Lee Cass says it was also concerning that at Thursday’s meeting, it became clear that ‘Council had not sighted the licence between Elements Resort and Transport for NSW.’
‘Despite this, Council continues to make planning decisions that affect Byron’s amenity regarding the train and infrastructure.
‘It is unbelievable that major decisions are being made in Byron council without knowing the facts.’
No formal reason
Cr Spooner supports the residents’ position, and told Echonetdaily, ‘My questioning of [Elements of Byron general manager] Jeremy Holmes and council staff demonstrated that this decision was granted to Elements of Byron without any reason being provided by NSW Transport as to why they would not consent to Condition 15 as the landowner.’
‘They just said in a phone call that they didn’t want to accept it. No formal reasons were provided. The implication of this decision for council’s ongoing coastal erosion policy (Chapter E, Byron DCP 2014 and Part J, Byron DCP 2010) is now unknown as this appears to be the first exemption granted to have a condition placed over a land title to remove approved infrastructure if the erosion line comes within 50 metres.’
But Mr Holmes told Echonetdaily that the resort ‘was not exempted’ from the shire’s coastal erosion policy.
He said, ‘Elements of Byron could not adhere to the restriction as Elements of Byron does not own the land in question. The land is owned by State Rail and managed by Transport for NSW. They would not agree to the restriction.’
Staff flagged coastal erosion policy as a potential issue but still supported the move in a report for council’s meeting.
They wrote, ‘It is considered the removal of the condition will not create a precedent or diminish Council’s planning controls in relation to planned retreat for residential development in areas under potential threat from coastal erosion events.’