With a development application (DA) for a massive 108-hectare housing/commercial estate closing for public submissions soon, The Echo has asked for reconfirmation of the landowners’ identities and ask why their DA is submitted without a clear path to reducing Byron’s traffic issues.
The 387-lot West Byron proposal, situated on Ewingsdale Road near Byron Bay, has seen longtime opposition by residents, and the latest attempt to get approval comes without clear traffic management or environmental safeguards, and is presented without a clear path to completion.
Despite repeated requests, local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin is yet to reply to The Echo’s questions but has previously said he is concerned with the development’s potential impacts.
A spokesperson for the group said the West Byron development is made up of nine holdings – in no particular order, they are Tony Smith, Alan Heathcote, Peter Croke, David O’Connor, Garry McDonald, Warren Simmons and Kevin Rogers.
All seven landowners are local, says the spokesperson, except Mr Rogers.
‘The lands that were originally owned by Crighton Properties and then acquired by Terry Agnew are no longer part of the West Byron project. What is now known as The Harvest Estate is being managed by [QLD construction company] VillaWorld, in a joint venture arrangement with Terry Agnew and have nothing to do with West Byron.
‘The West Byron lands are the subject of a DA we submitted to Byron Shire Council in November 2017.
‘The DA applies for these lands (approximately 58 hectares) to be subdivided into 31 hectares zoned for conservation and 27 hectares to be zoned for low- and medium- density housing, light industrial and a neighbourhood centre.’
The Echo asked, ‘Presumably these local landowners have local interests at heart?
‘Why then would they submit a DA that is clearly flawed in traffic management alone?
‘Their own traffic report appears to have no answers to the increased traffic that will result from this project.
‘How will the West Byron voluntary planning agreement (VPA), which will result in presumably less than 4km of road, adequately address an already overburdened road?
‘Traffic consultants Veitch Lister say to complete the project, ‘up to 300,000m3 of fill will be required to complete the site formation across the whole [West Byron area], in order to achieve the desired flood immunity.’
‘These traffic consultants admit in their report they are ‘unsure how VillaWorld plan to implement their initial works within the western stage one precinct.’ Why would this DA be presented without a clear path to completion?’
The spokesperson replied, ‘It’s important to differentiate between what West Byron can control and the contributions it can make versus the government decision-makers.’
‘The current VPA requires West Byron to contribute $7,000 per lot towards traffic solutions for the area.
‘It is the minister who determines how that money is spent – and that is currently towards Byron Council’s own plan (albeit 30 years old) for the bypass. Were Council and the minister to determine that there was a better solution, the West Byron landowners would be very happy to redo the VPA for the moneys to go to the newly identified traffic solution. Similarly, the West Byron landowners cannot control what VillaWorld do.
‘The VillaWorld project has been mentioned in the West Byron DA, as it is clearly significant in how the council assesses the West Byron application, but the West Byron landowners cannot control it, nor can they force VillaWorld to share plans with them.’
The Echo also asked, ‘There appears no politician willing to speak up who is supportive of this proposal.’
‘It was approved by Liberal Pru Goward, who never bothered to come here to inspect it herself when she was planning minister. Is there a politician in support of this project the landowners can name other than the former planning minister?’
The spokesperson replied, ‘All the West Byron landowners can do (and have done) is make applications under the current legislation and ask for that to be assessed.’
‘Ministers and councillors change and they have an opportunity to change laws moving forward if they don’t like what’s been done, but it’s not West Byron’s responsibility to be popular with the cycle of elected representatives.
‘West Byron has written to every new planning minister to offer briefings; they have made the same offer to MPs Ben Franklin (Nationals) and Catherine Cusack (Liberal). West Byron has also sought to engage with Byron Council officers and councillors at all stages of the project to date and will continue to seek constructive relationships and work towards the best outcome for all parties.
‘There’s very little political mileage for a politician to come out in favour of something that’s already been approved – much easier to be silent or to indicate that you’d have done something different.’
Two large separate West Byron DAs are up for public comment: 10.2017.661.1 and 10.2017.201. Email Byron Shire Council at [email protected]