A staff recommendation to ‘activate the Byron Bay rail corridor’ that is due to go before Byron Council this week includes a recommendation to allow ‘development for markets with development consent,’ much to the consternation of the Byron Environment Centre and some stallholders.
But the monthly Byron Bay community markets have no plan to move either permanently or temporarily to the railway corridor according to their ultimate manager Paul Spooner.
The GM of Byron Community Centre and Byron Shire ALP councillor was batting back concerns expressed by Byron Environment Centre’s John Lazarus about the appearance of the option on the staff recommendation, which also includes the option of ‘development for the purposes of a community facility, including commercial activity undertaken by a not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise… with development consent within the station building, previously used as a ticketing office for the rail station, and the adjacent railway platform.’
But Cr Spooner said the use of the site would be a fall-back option only if use of Butler Street Reserve became untenable during the building of the Byron Bay Bypass.
He told Echonetdaily that the Byron Bay Community Association was ‘committed to the community markets staying at Butler Street Reserve’.
‘No approach is proposed or has been made by myself (or anyone else) to facilitate a move of the community markets to either the railway corridor or the beachfront,’ he said.
‘As I understand it, the proposal for the corridor enables one-off events (e.g. Soul Street or the like) and if any circumstance arose where it is required to move the markets, eg: for the temporary relocation of the existing markets due to Butler Street Reserve not being useable. Without this option the only other viable location would be the beachfront.’
Cr Spooner also pointed out that ‘the planning proposal does not provide any approval for ongoing markets to operate in the corridor. A formal DA would still need to be lodged and the community given the opportunity to make submissions. Under what is proposed this could only happen when existing markets need to relocate. No new markets could be established there’.
He added the BBCA was ‘committed to working cooperatively with stallholders to ensure the Butler Street Reserve is the home of the Community Markets’.
‘I will work both as a GM and as a councillor to ensure Council keeps the community informed of any issues that would impact on the operation of the markets at the Reserve.
‘This includes ensuring the current council investigations into the historical ground contamination is fully understood by stallholders and the community,’ he said.
Acting GM Mark Arnold made similar points in responding to Mr Lazarus’ concerns, saying, ‘The intention of the amendment is to provide for the community use of the corridor for local events, exhibitions and the like; facilitate the upgrade and beautification of the corridor; provide for the adaptive use of the station building for a community purpose; and to facilitate the temporary or permanent relocation of existing markets.’
The proposal before Council referred to here is conveniently available on Council’s website and easy to find
in the 130+ MB agenda and 164 MB attachments document!
There are some other interesting aspects to this report – namely that the proposal now before Council for the rail corridor “activation” is quite different from the one last advertised, probably because: Six individual submissions were received. All objected to the proposal to permit commercial/ retail uses on the land, as they would be in direct competition to business already established in the Town Centre.
The discussion of the Guidance Group reflected the same concerns, with the individual members of that Group opposed to commercial use of the space. The consensus view of the group at that meeting was that the activation of the corridor should be by way of community uses and activities.
The report then summarises the changes now suggested.
The 52 days a year ‘temporary use’ seems gone, deemed now to be neither temporary nor one-off! Generally with some pertinent questions from submissions about economics, fairness and administrative practicality this rather grandiose thought bubble now seems to be tempered with some sense.
With the temptation too great however for someone to slip in another creative thought bubble there now appears a curious addition (already alluded to here): Development for the purposes of a community facility, including commercial activity undertaken by a not-for-profit organisation or social enterprise, is permitted with development consent within the Station Building, previously used as a ticketing office for the rail station, and the adjacent railway platform.
Again thrust before Council amidst an avalanche of an agenda is an ill-defined notion about the future of a very iconic, historical and valuable community building that seems so far to have simply been overlooked in the grand scheme of things. But again the details are so scant:
Is the proposal to choose one lucky ‘not-for-profit’ organisation to be given the rights to the building?
How will the lucky winner be chosen and on what criteria?
How will a not-for-profit, which will operate much like other businesses utilising substantial income for wages, pose any less disadvantage to local businesses if given free or subsidised rent?
Byron is badly in need of spaces that would offer a much wider range of community activities and cultural enrichment. On a rotational basis our volunteer groups could make use of the space for their activities. Friends of the Library could perhaps have a venue for its annual book sale that doesn’t involve so much of the profit going to the rent of a venue. They might have somewhere in Byron to host author talks.
Let’s not rush into clinching the fate of a this asset in the wake of a previous ill-defined idea.
In the last sentence of the above article Council’s acting GM is quoted, explaining some of the clauses in the Motion up for vote at this week’s Council meeting. He says: ‘and to facilitate the temporary or PERMANENT relocation of existing markets’. It’s the word ‘permanent’ that is one of the reasons for stallholders’ and other stakeholders’ consternation. Why is that word there?
It is concerning that none of Butler Reserve’s stakeholders were informed of this matter coming to a vote in Council. Seems some Councillors were not aware either. Begs the question: might Council’s previous statements, assuring Butler Reserve stakeholders they will be included in discussions, be nothing more than consultative window dressing?
That word ‘permanent’. It has also proved another cause for alarm amongst stallholders in recent months. Different issue? Hard to say. For thirty plus years stallholders in the Rainbow Region’s markets who turn up every month, year after year, are called Permanents. Transient stallholders or those awaiting a ‘permanent’ site at a market are called ‘casuals’. In November last year, out of the blue, with no explanation, permanent stallholders of the Byron Community Markets managed by the Byron Community Centre had their status changed to ‘regular’. We have asked why through formal letters and during formal and informal meetings. The response? Either: “I don’t know anything about it,” or, “it’s just a word, nothing has changed.”
‘Permanent’ is not just a word. It means … permanent. To take this status away from stallholders is a smack in the face and shows complete disregard for the longstanding community of small businesses and creatives who have contributed significantly, and over decades, to the cultural and iconic status of Byron.