Massive land release area on Ewingsdale Road limps closer to the finishing line after more state govt interference
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment continues to act as a propaganda public relations unit for West Byron developers, with a press release last week again spruiking one of the largest urban and commercial land release areas in a generation on sensitive wetlands.
And the message from deputy secretary of planning services Marcus Ray appeared conflicted, saying ‘It’s important to deliver the right types of housing needed in appropriate areas… while protecting the natural environment the area is known for.’
With the department amending Byron Shire Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) and overriding Council, Ray said the ‘delivery of up to 1,100 new homes… is a step closer following the finalisation of changes to the West Byron Urban Release Area.’
Yet that decision comes without Council consent and, according to last year’s election, does not reflect the wishes of the majority of the community.
Many residents had long campaigned against developing the West Byron area, with numerous protests and petitions over the years.
An overwhelmingly left- leaning council majority was elected in September 2016 after the previous council’s slim majority led a pro-development agenda.
The previous slim council majority was only possible after a Greens councillor defected and voted to ask the then-planning minister to approve West Byron ‘to her satisfaction.’
Developer’s interests first
One resident who led the charge against West Byron is now a councillor: Cate Coorey.
She told The Echo, ‘These enforced changes to our LEP are another example of the department of planning putting developer interests first and ignoring Council, the people of Byron and serious environmental factors.’
‘One of our first acts as a council was to disallow major infrastructure in areas that were zoned environmental at West Byron.’
‘The department has now decreed that developers are allowed to put their infrastructure into the environmental zones so they don’t have to lose any valuable housing areas.
‘This site was so poorly zoned in the first place and the zoning did not take into account these essential services. The department’s idea of solving their problem is to make it ours by allowing stormwater drainage, water and sewer reticulation and earthworks in both environmental conservation (‘E2’) and environmental management (‘E3’) zones.
‘Clearly an environmental zone means nothing to this government.
‘The department seems content to obliterate nature if a developer wants it.
‘The department seems to view West Byron as if it were a greenfield site in Western Sydney. Added to the glaring traffic problems posed by 1,000-plus dwellings on the site, we also have the issues of a critically endangered frog habitat, core koala habitat and acid sulfate soil that are still ignored.
No environmental zones since 2012
‘It should be remembered that the minister for planning intervened in 2012 to stop Byron Shire creating proposed environmental zones.
‘We have had no environmental zones since then.
‘In 2014 when the minister rezoned West Byron for intensive development, it was the only place in the whole shire that did have E-zones; now that means nothing since we have been told that we have to have major development in them.
‘Council is now going through the process of reviewing which of the environment zones it created back in 1988 it will be able to retain under the new rules, as it seems that none of the new ones we proposed will ever be allowed to be created.
‘Now the new minister is setting the precedent that even if we can one day create our own environmental zones they will be next to useless as this West Byron decision means you can build in them.’