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West Byron developers reply to claims of traffic chaos and political support

Get in to have your say – again – on the West Byron proposal. Even the traffic consultants admit there are no plans to alleviate the existing traffic problems.

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.’

Traffic plans

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]


2 responses to “West Byron developers reply to claims of traffic chaos and political support”

  1. Marianne Melnikas says:

    How selfish are those West Byron residents. We live here no one else can.
    They seem hell bent on denying 1st home buyers the opportunity to own there own home.
    I am sick to death of these Green supposedly goodie two shoes stopping the much needed growth here in the Northern Rivers.
    The Norther Rivers desperately needs more residents and more medium to large business setting up in the region.
    I wish to see our children getting jobs where they live and not needing to more down to Sydney or up to the Gold Coast.
    If these negative ninnies stop and think how much more can be done within their own Shire with all the additional rates that will be paid.
    We must also not forget more residents equates to more job opportunities.
    These ninnies are hell bent on being a most negative force, denying 1st home buyers the opportunity to live in the place they love. I often wonder if these minorities realise they are infringing on these peoples Human Rights to have a permanent roof over their heads.

    • Alastair says:

      Hi Marianne

      I’m sorry but I just don’t agree with anything you have written. There is absolutely no evidence that this housing will be priced in the range of most first home owners, and this rate of growth is entirely unsustainable for the shire and region. I just don’t see how the Northern Rivers desperately needs more residents, or why it is essential for big business to come in to create a sustainable future.

      I am not saying people should not be moving here, but I just don’t feel that it is not a panacea for all the issues you have raised. I agree we should be concentrating on generating decent employment for the youth of this area, but I struggle to see how more mouths competing for employment can actually add to that.

      We are one of the most unsustainable shires in NSW. We are running out of water, and cannot process our waste. We ship out our all of rubbish and recycling to other shires, while we ship in most of the food, energy and resources required to support our visitors and residents. And with all of this massive capital flight, money made in Byron just does not stay in Byron. Even the revenue from the sale from all of these houses will not stay in the shire. More big business will not help this and more people will not alleviate this, for the most part it will exacerbate it.

      I am not screaming NIMBYism here, but building another enclave for the wealthy is not going to solve our housing issues, or our societal or fiscal ones. I think that we need to slow down, focus on doing better with what we have (higher density housing, localised power grids, water recycling, shop local etc), and maybe try and bring in some diverse sustainable business (not linked to tourism) that generate decent employment and localised economies. The sooner we can disengage the prices of our housing stocks from the tourism index, the more likely future generations will have a hope of buying an affordable house.

      Respectfully Yours
      (and not partisan to any political party) Alastair.

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