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Byron Shire
January 21, 2022

Byron mayor defends Railway Park deal

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One of the trees removed from Byron Bay’s Railway Park at the behest of departing GM Ken Gainger. Photo Chris Dobney

Hans Lovejoy

Could a secret deal to secure a cafe its own frontage onto Byron’s Railway Park have produced an unfair commercial advantage over neighbouring cafe operators?

Mayor Simon Richardson doesn’t appear to think so, and has told The Echo he tried to persuade the Byronian Cafe owner of that option if the cafe chose to stay in its location.

Cr Richardson told The Echo he intervened after he learned a food- chain restaurant was looking at taking on the location.

Instead, the Commonwealth Bank has relocated into the building, and that coincides with the completion of the first stage of the park’s upgrade under the town’s masterplan.

Cr Richardson did not reply as to whether other staff members or councillors were present at the meeting/s with the cafe owner.

The Echo also asked whether one of the trees that was removed without warning/approval last November was blocking this potential arrangement. To date, there has been no accountability for the action, which was ordered by Council’s former general manager.

Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘I met the architect and owner when I heard there was to be a food-chain restaurant.’

‘I believe it was before any DA was lodged. I wished to try to persuade them otherwise; in this I was successful.’

He continued, ‘They had quite a few meetings with staff over the question of a possible opening or leasing of some of the park on its edge for a deck to supplement a cafe. They never submitted a DA to do this and the tree would not have blocked the ability to have a deck alongside the park’s edge.’  

Cr Richardson went on to defend his decision to intervene, despite the apparent compromise of commercial gain protocol.   

‘My meeting focused on my advocating on behalf of my community where I believed a local cafe of some sort would be far more appreciated by the community than a fast-food-chain restaurant franchise.

‘I also met the CEO of the restaurant chain and managed to persuade him to expand his operation elsewhere.

‘I have been pretty open about this’

‘I believe I have been pretty open about this as I publicly led the charge to successfully stop KFC, mainly after managing to convince the owner of that site to stop it going through. I believe most of the Byron community do not want fast-food restaurants in Byron Bay.

‘I believe that though most accept there are some chains already here, resisting new ones is absolutely something they would expect their mayor and councillors to do.’ 

When asked if it was a good outcome that a bank moved into the new premises, he replied, ‘I don’t think it is either great or terrible, it just is.’

‘However, I don’t believe a solid corporate-branded wall is a good outcome for the park and Council is currently seeking to get a more community-friendly outcome on this matter. I’d obviously like some great local art on the wall, or a screening of trees – which I would presume our community would want us to advocate for also.’

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  1. This is all a bit clouded. Is there a cafe with park frontage and is a lease in place for some of the park land for a deck? What did the question of negotiating a lease have to do with preventing a food chain coming to this area? Is there a Plan of Management for the park land and does it have anything to say about leases? Should any leasing of this land for commercial gain be advertised for open tender? Is it the role of mayor to be Intervening in these matters?

  2. Can someone explain how this vandalism: chopping down trees and laying down concrete constitutes an “upgrade” to the park?

  3. Byron is sliding towards homogenisation – becoming like other small country towns. Its uniqueness is becoming threatened.

    • I understand what you are getting at, Perry but I can’t agree it is becoming like other small country towns. It has few of the pleasing qualities that mark small country town life and it has become uniquely nightmarish.

  4. No DA, removing Heritage Native Trees that are original vegetation remnants of the area in a parke that was created, leveled and filled by local volunteers in the 1980’s and guaranteed under a Management Plan for future public use. What’s there to negotiate, fine them and stop calling it Railway Square, it’s always been Railway Park and no change of name consultation has been advertised.It’s not in the advertised upgrade that was advertised. Is Byron Council doing a shady deal to remove the shady trees and preempt a development that hasn’t had community consultation?


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