Planning confusion and contradictions surround a press release last week by Byron Shire Council that it plans to relocate the Byron markets from Butler Street Reserve in May next year.
The joint announcement by Greens mayor Simon Richardson and Cr Paul Spooner (Labor) claims that the move is necessary for around a year to allow for impending works for the Butler Street bypass and Butler Street reserve transport hub.
Yet there is no clear budget for either project – Cr Spooner told The Echo that the transport hub’s location is yet to be determined while the mayor confirmed that a cheaper option for the the overblown Butler Street bypass project will now be pursued.
After receiving an update on possible bypass options, the mayor said, ‘It looks like we can create a bypass within the budget that would require some extra expenses at a later date, eg the proposed roundabout at Browning Street could come after, rather than waiting for all money [to be] secured first.’
Cr Spooner supported the mayor’s claim and told The Echo, ‘The $22.5 million price tag would deliver a fully engineered and complete bypass in one step. The $14.5 million that Council has access to will deliver a scaled-back but functional road to be completed in stages. That is, build it and hope you get some more money to finish off the finer details.’
The decision to move the markets, says Cr Spooner, was owing to the ‘uncertainty of Council’s planning processes… it was important to provide the markets with certainty.’
‘The decision to have a temporary relocation to the beachfront from May 2018 gives that certainty. Any concerns stallholders or the Dunecare group have will be able to be ironed out over the next six months.’
Yet Dunecare management say that they believe a relocated market will adversely affect the dunes, which have undergone a 20-year restoration project.
Dunes will not cope
Green and Clean Dunecare’s Veda Turner told The Echo they ‘have a strong opinion that the dunes will not cope with the pressure of a monthly market close to twice the size of the quarterly craft markets.’
It contradicts the mayor’s press release, which claims Council and market managers (the Byron Community Centre), ‘have both committed to working closely with the Green and Clean Dunecare group to develop a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan, which will look at things like litter and the impact on the reserve.’
Mr Turner said, ‘The very successful 20-year regen program at Main and Clarkes Beaches means that the forest along the dunes is now home to many creatures, so the impact of thousands of market-goers, including litter, incursions into the regen area, and noise will have inescapable consequences.’
But Cr Spooner, who is also manager of the Byron Community Centre, played down potential environmental impacts and instead claimed that the relocated market would only have 100 stalls more than the current craft market held on the beach.
He said, ‘I don’t believe the dunes will be greatly affected as this is a temporary move’.
‘With the current four beachside markets per year, I have not seen any observable impacts. We are committed to work towards a positive outcome for the markets and the environment. Money raised at the markets can be put towards dunecare and restoration projects. We had a meeting with Dunecare representatives before this announcement was made. They agreed to work with market management and Council to develop a joint Environmental Management Plan to ensure the park is protected and maintained during this temporary use.’
Green and Clean Dunecare’s Veda Turner also told The Echo, ‘We also have concerns regarding the new Byron Bay bus interchange. There does seem to be a headlong rush to determine that Butler Street Reserve is the only option.’
‘It seems to us that again the environment and green space are being sacrificed to enhance tourism. We ask that the investigation continue for a better location where community green space is not lost.’
Cr Spooner said he is yet to hear back after asking Transport for NSW to consider locating the Bus Transit Centre at the Cavanbah Centre on Ewingsdale Road, ‘as it’s a better location and there are facilities there already.’
Mayor Richardson supported C Spooner’s comments and told The Echo he has also ‘spoken to Ben Franklin MLC (Nationals) to this effect also.’
‘Transport NSW, though not formally agreeing to this request, have requested more maps and info on Cavanbah. We await their decision.’
Cr Spooner agreed that he was ‘frustrated’ and ‘not happy with the way the transport hub was rolling out.’
‘This was not engineered by councillors – major projects of Council need to be more clearly articulated by staff to the community.’
Highlighting the councillor’s concern for clarity is the admission within the Council press release that a parking strategy for a monthly beachside market is ‘yet to be worked out’.
Stallholder group left out of process
Meanwhile Rainbow Region Stallholders Association Gyan Moyes told The Echo his group felt the committee to negotiate with Council was cherry-picked. ‘We have largely been left out of the process’, he said.
Mr Moyes says his group has joined forces with the Save Byron Markets group.
But another stallholder group, North Coast Stallholders Association, are supportive of the beachside move.
In Council’s press release, Ananda Mcoscar from the association said the temporary relocation to the beachfront was a good outcome for stallholders. Mr Mcoscar said, ‘Most of the stallholders have been working for years together and the most important thing for all of us is that we have a viable location for our markets and the beachfront is the perfect short-term option.’
Yet Mr Moyes from the other stallholders’ group questioned how many stallholders are represented by the group.
Mr Moyes did not reveal the membership numbers of his own Rainbow Region Stallholders Association when asked by The Echo.
Stallholder Ian Brown conducted a recent survey at the previous markets and claimed that 209 signatures were collected from those who were wanting to stay on the reserve. ‘We did not have the staff to get to all the stalls,’ he said, claiming there are at least 300 stallholders.
‘Cr Paul Spooner appears to have been angered by us and says we are threatening the viability of the markets,’ Mr Moyes said. ‘But we argue the market stallholders have not been given enough prominence or consideration. I think our behaviour has been reasonable; instead we have been goaded and disrespected. There has been marginal scrutiny of this project; there is no DA and it is outside the masterplan process.’
Fellow stallholder Ian Brown told The Echo he agrees that meetings with Council and stallholders were cherry-picked.
Mr Brown said, ‘Despite quantifying the fact that most stallholders want to stay on Butler Street Reserve, this crew have spoken for the minority of the stallholders that want to leave.’
‘They [Council] are desperate to get rid of the markets to be able to sell off the land to the highest bidder.
‘The excuse that the Butler Street Bypass roadworks will cause disruption is laughable. What about all the residents in the affected area and the Piggery’s business? The roadworks will have to accommodate all these people.
‘Please contact Paul Spooner requesting that he fight for the majority of stallholders to stay on the Butler Street Recreational Reserve.’
Not under threat
But Cr Spooner instead maintains the markets are not under threat as there is a five-year certainty for the Butler Street Reserve location.
‘All stallholders will be guaranteed continuation of trading during the temporary relocation,’ he said.
‘I do appreciate that some stallholders would like to be involved in direct discussions with Council but with a mailing list of more than 500 it is impossible to include everyone. A small number of stallholders who attend the regular Byron Markets Committee meetings have attended the recent discussions with both Council and the Dunecare group,’ he said.