The Land and Environment Court has dismissed a resident appeal against Byron Shire Council’s plans to build a Byron Bay town centre bypass along Butler Street.
The judgement was handed down on Friday.
The court case the project delayed the project by at least a year and the council’s cost to defend the case was about $450,000.
The council’s legal services coordinator, Ralph James, said the court approved the bypass in its entirety, including all the conditions of consent.
The decision brings to an end an almost 12-month legal battle with the Butler Street Community Network (BSCN), which brought on the challenge after their street was approved for the bypass by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) in June last year.
BSCN claimed there was room on the adjoining rail corridor for a bypass, rail services and a bicycle track.
But the council argued that it had no ownership the rail corridor, which is controlled by the state government, and that it was not wide enough for all three purposes.
Mr James said that, ‘as far back as 1988 the Butler Street route was identified within the Byron Local Environmental Plan as the location of the town centre bypass,’ adding that ‘in 2014 the Butler Street alignment became the preferred route’.
‘Key to the decision was the fact that the Butler Street alignment comprises the existing road network, road reserve and council-owned land. This means that the council will be the owner and custodian of this land in perpetuity,’ Mr James said.
Protected wetlands ignored
BSCN said the Land & Environment Court Commissioner ‘did not enter into consideration of assessment of alternative routes as required by the EIS, she dismissed concerns raised by the group in this respect and found no basis to warrant refusal of the development in the protected wetlands.’
Group spokesperson Paul Jones said the council ‘clearly refused to assess and compare the rail corridor option in terms of ecological impacts in the wetlands and we believe it is still in breach of the Environmental Protection and Assessment Act requirements.’
‘Byron Bay will now lose a valuable and irreplaceable component of its social and cultural heritage along Butler Street. A 50km/h main road will replace the local cul-de-sac road, Jonson Street traffic and all heavy vehicles will be diverted onto a clearway in the critical habitat wetlands straight out into a residential area with no pedestrian crossings in one of the busiest residential pedestrian areas in town.
‘The iconic Byron Markets will have to go from their home grounds as a bus station and multi-storey car park has been planned. The final blow is council’s expressed intention to now rezone the Butler Street neighbourhood commercial and complete the commercial sprawl and development of Byron Bay.’
While thanking Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith ‘for her continued support of our community campaign’ Mr Jones could not resist taking a swipe at ‘so-called Greens Mayor Simon Richardson who has given no support for our cause and has actively worked against the legitimate concerns of our community and its environment for a best practice outcome that would help preserve much the qualities of Byron Bay in our part of town for the future generations to come.’
Byron Shire GM Ken Gainger said it was ‘disappointing that the council had no choice but to defend the court action.’
‘For a shire of our size [$450,000 is] significant money that could have been spent elsewhere,’ he said.
‘The town centre bypass is a vital piece of road infrastructure needed to ease current traffic congestion.
‘Whilst it won’t solve all the traffic problems facing the popular town, the bypass will be of particular importance to locals, business and tradespeople who need to cross from one side of town to the other.
‘And 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 consent conditions approved by the court.
‘Butler Street is the designated route which is now approved by the Land and Environment Court decision, is supported with substantial state government funding and has the Roads and Maritime Service on-board as the appointed construction authority,’ Mr Gainger said.