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Byron Shire
October 22, 2021

A vision for Bangalow’s future

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John Sparks’s submission for the Banglaow master plan, which focuses on a town centre, a pedestrian-friendly CBD and nature walks connecting the perimeter. Image supplied
John Sparks’s submission for the Banglaow master plan, which focuses on a town centre, a pedestrian-friendly CBD and nature walks connecting the perimeter. Image supplied

With Byron Shire Council currently preparing its strategic plan for Bangalow and a public meeting held last week, retired town planner John Sparks has put forward his thoughts in a 53-page masterplan.

Like his masterplans for West Byron and the Byron Bay CBD, Sparks says that this study pulls together existing ideas and integrates strategies that have been formulated over previous years.

Likes and dislikes

Taking data from past community workshops and surveys, Sparks incorporates the ‘likes and dislikes’ of the town as planning principles to underpin his masterplan.

Likes include: ‘the community and village feel, heritage architecture and characteristics, cafes, pubs and retail, markets, festivals and events, rural setting, village centre character, public spaces and open spaces, street trees and green areas and natural environment, community facilities, tourism and entertainment, building heights, topography and views.’

By contrast, dislikes include ‘access and parking, traffic and lack of pedestrian network, tourist crowds, unsympathetic development and growth, the cost of shopping and real estate.’

Current issues

Issues with the town are also identified; for example, ‘Landcare projects are not protected from future development, biodiversity mapping is not used in planning assessments, wildlife corridors have not been established and the diversity of aims that exists within interest groups.’

Nature trail

A key proposal in the plan is integrating the existing walking trails that already feature around the town’s perimeter. As significant native planting work has been undertaken over the years by various groups, Sparks suggests that completing a world-class walking trail around the town is not far off.

‘The rehabilitated green areas, creeks and wetlands around the town centre can be fully integrated with simple paths, nature trails and walkways giving enhanced living and learning opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy in a pleasant natural landscaped environment.’


Sparks says, ‘This masterplan can only be achieved through the co-operation of the three major stakeholders by agreement within each group and with each other.’

‘They are the community groups, the property owners and the Byron Shire Council.’

Fifteen community groups are identified, and while acknowledging ‘Bangalow is privileged to have the interest of so many community groups,’ he says they ‘do not always see the positive connection within all the diverse groups for the common good of the overall community.’

As for the property owners, Sparks says, ‘It is important to recognise the difference between maximum development, which exploits and destroys the amenity of the town, and optimum development, which considers all aspects with multiple bottom lines to any feasibility analysis.’

‘The property owners will gain much more through co-operating with each other and working together than they will by acting individually to try and exploit their own property or business.

‘Co-operative ventures also result in a more cohesive and empathetic development, rather than piecemeal and disjointed groups of buildings or projects by individuals with no communication.’

As for the role of local government, Sparks says the current planning system is an old paradigm, which is based on ‘restrictive regulations’.

‘Council will have to be inventive and use much initiative to produce a positive strategic plan…

‘The new paradigm is to have a positive cohesive vision as the basis of a Development Co-operation Plan, which encourages growth within agreed parameters to capitalise on the natural and community assets that we already have and to co-create with nature in a plan that exemplifies the environmental sustainable, ethical and spiritual values and aspirations of the community it serves within an efficient zero carbon framework.’

For more info visit www.byronbayvision.com.

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