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Byron Shire
September 22, 2021

Saddle Road landowners meet over planning proposal

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Echonetdaily understands that the planning proposal study area of 315 hectares covers a much larger area than what is proposed for residential use, meaning that cane fields for example will not be rezoned residential. This is owing to ‘a range of elements such as access options.’ 475 dwellings are proposed. Image from Saddle Road Planning Proposal.

A meeting last week with Byron Shire Council staff, councillors and Saddle Road, Mullumbimby, landowners has been reported differently by a proponent and opponent.

The contentious planning proposal and the staff recommendation against were removed from the December 14, 2017 Byron Shire Council meeting by senior staff to allow more ‘consultation between planning staff and the proponents and the objectors.’

The meeting comes after the council last year invited a planning proposal for Saddle Road land, known as ‘Area 17’ for affordable housing solutions.

The planning proposal for the entire ridgeline between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads also includes an intentional community called Bruns Eco Village.

Matthew O’Reilly, representing Saddle Ridge Community Action Group (SRLAMPA), said there was little support for the planning proposal and that 26 landowners representing 17 different properties affected by the Planning Proposal were in attendance.

Mr O’Reilly says, ‘The three property owners who have lodged the planning proposal also attended, but did not speak at the meeting. When a show of hands was called for those who support the proposal, no one put up their hands including the three land owners behind the proposal. By comparison, when a show of hands was called for in relation to those who opposed the planning proposal, almost the entire room put up their hands.’

Bruns Eco Village have hijacked this process and have jumped on the “affordable housing” band wagon to push their development through and now the other two land owners are jumping on board the Bruns Eco Village and affordable housing bandwagon to try and develop the entire precinct.

The Saddle Road area will never have affordable housing and it is a joke to try and argue otherwise. The Bruns Eco Village definition of affordable housing does not meet any NSW government definition and they are just using the “affordable housing” and “eco village” gimmicks to try and force their proposal through. To date, Bruns Eco Village have not provided any details on their legal structure, nor how they plan to provide affordable housing, nor how their definition of affordable housing meets NSW government requirements. All that they are really saying is “Just trust us, let us rezone the land… then we promise to do the right thing”. Yeah right.  I have heard developers say that before.

‘The members of SRLAMPA just want the proposal to be rejected and for council to go back to the Residential Strategy process which was clear and transparent.

‘If, after the Residential Strategy process is completed and the minister has signed off on the plan, the Saddle Road precinct is identified for future urban development then we will abide by that decision as it was a clear and transparent process that was not manipulated by politics, lobbying and contrived notions of eco development and affordable housing that just cloud the aims and objectives of the Residential Strategy process,’ ,’ Mr O’Reilly said.

Overall positive

Echonetdaily asked Kelvin Daly, who represents the Bruns Eco Village: ‘Are you happy to go with the Residential Strategy process if these claims of lack of support are correct?

Mr Daly replied, ‘Overall we felt the second Council-led community consultation session for its planning of its Area 17 Future Living Release Area was positive. It was clear that the Mayor and the Councillors are taking an active interest in the process by their welcomed attendance. Clearly residents are keen to know more details as the planning process evolves and as such, details evolve.’ 

‘Since Council initiated the Affordability Pilot Study process inviting us to submit a proposal, the participating landowners have been working with the council and the community in good faith, and will continue to do so. We really welcome the fact that community has the opportunity to explore the various housing opportunities on offer, not previously available in Council planning before.

‘Of the 475 proposed homes, 200 are to be dedicated to affordable housing – 120 through the Bruns Eco Village (held in perpetuity for affordable housing in a community land trust model), and 80 through enforceable voluntary planning agreements where the land is owned by Council. My understanding is that a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) can agree on anything, provided it is for a public purpose.  So technically, a VPA could cap development potential.

‘Council may then enter partnerships with housing providers like North Coast Community Housing, for example. We genuinely feel that what’s on offer here is a response to the request for a share of the rezoning value, for the community,’ Mr Daly said.

VDP completed

Meanwhile organisers from Bruns Eco Village say their second Village Development Program (VDP) completed last weekend ‘exceeded expectations.’

BEV spokesperson Mairead Cleary said, ‘While most participants were local, some came from as far as Alice Springs and ranged in age from twenties to seventies.’

‘The training, led by Shane Sylvanspring, covered community-related topics such as non-violent communication, dynamic governance, permaculture, deep ecology, localised economics, legal structures, conflict resolution and more.

‘One of the more interesting exercises the group participated in was an empathic process that roll-played the wider Byron community’s responses to the Bruns Eco Village project and involved stepping into the shoes of various members of the community to seek to understand the needs and concerns of the community.

‘One participant, Sugama Sellers described the week as ‘a grounded experience with practical and real people’ and said she ‘incredibly impressed with the depth of research and knowledge that has gone into the project’.

Another participant said that the training had brought ‘a greater confidence in what Bruns Eco Village is about.’

‘The week brought presentations from a range of elders and experts and culminated in the members of both VDPs coming together to meet each other on the last day.’

The next VDP will be held later this year. See brunsecovillage.com.au for further details.

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