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Byron Shire
April 12, 2024

Coolamon campground plan inappropriate

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David Brown, Mullumbimby.

You leave Mullumbimby for a month and what happens? You guessed it, another DA for inappropriate development appears. This time, a large camp ground on one of the Shire’s most dangerous roads, Coolamon Scenic Drive.

It’s in a RU2 Rural Landscape zone. The LEP states ‘…small scale rural tourism uses associated with primary production and environmental conservation…’ is one of five clear zone objectives. Can anyone explain how 239 camping and caravan sites, a large yoga hall, a day spa, six cabins, a kiosk, around 70 separate visitor parking spaces, substantial excavation and grading, and an oversized ‘manager’s residence’ could, even in the wildest imagination, be considered small scale?

Clause 6.8 of the LEP reinforces the zone objective adding that: ’Development consent must not be granted to tourism development … unless the consent authority is satisfied that … the development is small scale and low impact, and the development is complementary to the rural or environmental attributes of the land and its surrounds.’ Clearly the camp ground DA must be rejected on the basis it’s not small scale, it’s not low impact and it adversely impacts on the agricultural production, scenic and environmental values of the land.

Traffic is another significant issue. The DA report only addresses the entry intersection on Coolamon Scenic Drive. Of more concern is the impact increased traffic will have on the busy and often dangerous Coolamon Scenic Drive/Main Arm Road intersection. In addition to high vehicle speeds and poor sight lines, there is no safe footpath or dedicated cycleway between the site and the Mullumbimby town centre. This means movement into and out of the site will be vehicular and it is hard to believe the cabins, campsites and 150 daily visitors will only generate 206 morning and afternoon peak movements. The estimated development traffic generation figures underlying the traffic report should therefore be challenged as inappropriate or understatements despite what the codes might say.

Then there is the claim minimal site works are involved. Careful examination of the drawings, and site contours, clearly indicates that most of the buildings are to be on level platforms with retaining walls up to 1.4 metres or more high and substantial amounts of excavation. In addition, the vehicle swept paths and turning circles shown in the traffic report fail to acknowledge that many of the camping sites are on relatively steep slopes. Many have cross-falls of a metre or more, those in the north-east section three and four metres. Level timber platforms are a proposed solution but will require footing excavations, ongoing maintenance and, in many cases, safety fences. All of which add construction and recurrent costs while not necessarily making access for cars with caravans easier. Excavating platforms and building retaining walls cannot be considered minimal site works.

The planner’s report concludes with the following statement: ‘It is recommended that Council approve this blending development which does not alter the rural character of this area, and which is exemplary in its high level of amenity and aesthetic character.’ Please, give me a break! What does ‘blending development’ mean? Is it just another ’buzz word’ intended to bemuse the public and assessing officers alike? Or is it supposed to convey the impression that the development will not alter the area’s rural character. Clearing and other work carried out on the site has already altered the area’s rural character. The proposed campground development will irrevocably damage it.

Finally, when will hackneyed words like ‘high level amenity’ or ‘low cost accommodation’ or ‘achieving ecologically sustainable development’ be removed from the planning vocabulary? Some landowners, and their consultants, seem to believe they will, if repeated often enough, seduce Council into approving inherently bad development. In the Coolamon Scenic Drive DA context they are, at best, embellishments to be ignored.

DA110/2018 for 1897 Coolamon Scenic Drive is a bad, inappropriate development. It must be rejected and, if necessary, Council must strongly defend its decision if Land & Environment Court action is a consequence.

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  1. Thanks David for being alert and concerned enough to inform us of this development. It sounds as though you have done careful analysis on the basis of which you are quite correct to assume that buzz words, designed to obfuscate, abound. We only have to think about the big banks and AMP to appreciate how much high level money grabbing is taking place and all of us need to be as on the ball as you.

  2. This is a wonderfully articulate response to the proposed DA on Coolamon Scenic Drive. As residents of Mullumbimby who live about 2 kms past the site, we have already put in an objection which covers most areas mentioned in David’s article. However, thank you, David, for giving a raising awareness to the objectionable wording of the DA. Yes, Mullum had best be on its guard!

  3. Looks like Mt Chincogan will go up in smoke if this is approved.
    You should not have permanent camping anywhere near the bottom of a steep slope that becomes a extreme fire hazard almost every summer.

  4. As far as sustainable development is concerned, if Byron Council is serious about wanting to integrate railway services in the shire and connect to other LGA, development should go alongside the railway corridor.

    Locals and tourists like the hilltops to stay green – not covered in dwellings. Neither is it good to develop natural wetlands, or areas that flood. If that doesn’t leave much left over – there’s more land further west.

    People on the coast may not know it, but while the coast is getting overcrowded, four Northern Rivers LGA are described as having ‘negative growth rates’. Three are inland – Kyogle, Clarence Valley [Grafton area], and Lismore.

    Kyogle Mayor is asking people to be a bit friendlier to newcomers to stop people selling up and leaving. Lismore Councillors are so concerned they erect signs pointing to Lismore, talk of getting ski-jumps, or even putting barricades across the Bruxner Hwy to stop people from leaving.

    All we need is railway services, and the excess people can go west to where it is a bit cheaper to live. One main issue of why people leave is the loss of daytime rail services.

    We used to get the train to the coast. Now people feel they have to buy a piece of it. That’s what the large billboard said for Casuarina Beach on the Tweed Coast – ‘You too can own a piece of the coast!’

    Let’s stop selling off the coast and just make it easier for people to get there – and leave without traffic jams, increasing carbon emissions or road fatalities!

  5. Thanks David for breaking this down and clearly stating the shortfalls in regards to the excessive over development of the property for this DA. I agree the development is totally inappropriate for this site.
    I would like to also add that the developer originally submitted a DA for affordable housing set up on the site. However BSC rejected the DA based on the property being situated in fire/flood zone, there unsuitable for permanent housing. Council did suggest to the developer he could resubmit a DA for a short term stay set up for the homeless and those in rental crisis. The DA is so far removed from Council’s suggestion one wonders as to why this developer come up with this development after Council rejected his first DA?


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