Byron Shire Council has given you the Christmas holidays to comment on the developer’s grandiose proposals for more than 1,000 houses and a shopping centre at West Byron, and another 16,000 cars a day choking Ewingsdale Road.
The local landholder’s Development Application (DA) for the bulk of the site is on exhibition until February 7, and the Villaworld DA has been re-exhibited until February 21 (these are hidden on Council’s website under the guise of ‘various properties’). Most of the West Byron industrial zone is not included and will probably be combined with the old Sunnybrand site into another mega DA in the near future.
The two exhibited DAs propose to create 659 residential lots from as small as 205m2 up to 3,386m2.
Within the Low Density Residential areas, both DAs are proposing numerous superlots which, contrary to the rules, are intended for future subdivision into medium-density housing or flats.
Minimum lot sizes have been flouted in the low-density zone with house lots down to 380m2 (450m2 minimum size), and duplex lots down to 525m2 (600m2 minimum size).
When subdivision rules are applied to the proposed lots it is apparent the proposals will result in more than 1,000 dwellings (without accounting for secondary dwellings). Ewingsdale Road is the main route into Byron Bay and is increasingly suffering congestion in peak periods.
Traffic is now in excess of 20,000 vehicle trips per day in the off season.
The developers are now admitting that their development will result in more than 14,000 daily vehicle trips, though I estimate it will add more than 16,000 vehicle trips per day onto Ewingsdale Road.
I have long argued that the zoning of this site was approved by the minister for planning on the patently false premise that it would only result in 6,000 additional vehicle trips per day, and that my repeated attempts to have the Department of Planning and Byron Shire Council acknowledge and redress this since 2011 were unjustly ignored.
The developers are denying that all those cars and two additional roundabouts (or traffic lights) will have any significant effect, when they will obviously have major and dramatic effects on the efficiency and ongoing operation of Byron’s main road in contravention of clause 101 of State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure).
Below flood level
The proposals involve filling the site to above flood level, with the importation of a million tonnes of fill. There is no indication of where this will come from and no assessment of the impacts of all those trucks on Ewingsdale Road.
The site will be filled up to 2.5m above Ewingsdale Road with a 2m or higher sound wall above this. Council is proposing that a 6m wide landscaped mound (and 5m wide path and utilities corridor) will extend into the public road reserve to obscure this massive wall. The wall should be set back from the road and the needed visual buffer put on the developer’s own land, so that we can retain our most important public transport corridor for just that.
The proposals are to clear 10.6 ha of native vegetation, of which 1.8 ha is in environmental protection zones.
Villaworld revised their proposal to remove the need to clear in environmental zones, but the local landowners have drains, paths and roads through them, with one area to be cleared for no apparent reason.
There are 13 patches of wetlands totalling 2.1 ha proposed for filling that have been identified in the government’s draft State Environment Planning Policy (Coastal Management) as warranting an Environmental Impact Statement, except the SEPP hasn’t been adopted yet.
One of these wetlands encompasses habitat for the nationally vulnerable Wallum Sedge Frog.
Even though Villaworld are proposing to place 3m of fill over the only known population on their property, they refuse to assess impacts and prepare a Species Impact Statement on the grounds it ‘will be subject to a Bio-banking Assessment Report’.
The local landholders remain in denial about the critical importance of the habitat on the site for facilitating essential dispersal of koalas between Tyagarah and Byron Bay, despite all surveys over the past eight years finding koalas or fresh scats on the site.
Plans to clear koala habitat
Their intention is to clear two of the 5.5 hectares of koala habitat, fragment the remaining habitat, and put up koala-proof fences – all of which threaten the functioning of this vital link. They think that it’s equivalent to cut down mature koala feed trees and replace them with seedlings that will take decades to be useable.
They have even failed to consider their impacts on threatened species in accordance with the new Biodiversity Conservation Act, as legally required.
The Department of Planning has previously flouted the planning rules so the minister could insert the developer’s grandiose scheme into Byron’s Local Environment Plan (LEP).
This appears to have emboldened the developers into ignoring their own rules.
This may be your last chance.
You need to make a submission to say enough is enough. Both DAs need to be withdrawn and made compliant with all legal requirements.
Whatever the developers do, Ewingsdale Road will not cope with the traffic increases, and their traffic nightmare should be rejected for past misrepresentation and contravening clause 101 of the Infrastructure SEPP.
♦ Dailan Pugh is spokesperson for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).