Traffic, height issues mar Ewingsdale medical centre plan

Hans Lovejoy

With the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) considering a large medical centre on McGettigans Lane/Ewingsdale Rd, The Echo has a peek at what is proposed.

The JRPP meet May 17 at the Mullum Council Chambers from 1.30pm and the public are welcome to attend.

Medical and specialist consulting rooms, a day theatre, pharmacy, 12 overnight stay units, cafe and basement and ground-level parking are all estimated to cost $8m.

An ASIC search reveals the owners of applicant Brunsmed Pty Ltd are Victorian-based Joel, Gary and John Wertheimer.

As with anything large proposed for Ewingsdale Rd, added traffic will be an issue. It’s not uncommon for the road to be clogged up to the highway, daily, for example.

Thankfully Council staff asked for an updated traffic report – according to consultants RoadNet’s report, the request was owing to concerns that the 2015 survey data provided previously would show ‘lower traffic movements’ than experienced in previous years.

Yet the traffic report says, ‘The date of the [current] traffic survey places it outside of school holidays or public holidays and is expected to be representative of a typical weekday for the purpose of examining peak-hour operating conditions at the subject intersection.’

In justifying this, the traffic consultants say ‘…peak activity on McGettigans Lane currently occurs on weekdays and coincides with the traffic generated by the existing Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School located to the south of McGettigans Lane on Balraith Lane.’

In summary, the traffic consultants say this development could generate 686 new traffic movements on an already overburdened road.

Expert advice 

They also admit their report ‘does include the caveat that there is widespread variation observed in the base data, and consequently the average rates cannot be relied upon for accurately predicting the trip generation at a particular facility.’

Now that’s expert advice!

To mitigate unmanageable traffic, the proponents say restrictions to hours of operation will limit traffic impacts.

It reads, ‘The proposed restrictions would see the consultation rooms and pharmacy not opening until 9.30am on weekdays to avoid the am peak (8.15–9.15am) on the adjacent road network, while these same land uses would also be closed between 2 and 4pm (between 2.30 and 4pm for the pharmacy) to avoid impacts on the pm peak (3–4pm) in particular.’

And like West Byron developers, Brunsmed have proposed a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA).

A VPA is a nice way to smooth through contentious developments that have massive potential impacts on neighbourhood, the community and the visitor economy.

While West Byron agreed to part fund a questionable bypass, Brunsmed proposes a contribution to a intersection upgrade.

Well, thanks, Brunsmed!

Within the traffic report, it states Council staff’s concern over traffic and that ‘any roundabout is unlikely to be constructed until year 2023.’

Council’s assessment 

Meanwhile, Council’s assessment report says, ‘the proposal has not demonstrated the safety, efficiency and ongoing operation of a classified road (Ewingsdale Road) will not be adversely affected by the development.’

Additionally, ‘The proposal has not demonstrated that suitable vehicular access is available, or that adequate arrangements have been made to make it available.’

As for the three-level building height, it clearly does not comply with the Byron LEP 2014. And even with a variation request, staff say it’s not justified.

The proposed development does not satisfy the matters for consideration within Byron DCP 2014 relating to traffic generation, car parking, setbacks, design detail and appearance.

Staff also say the subject site ‘is in an elevated and visually prominent position and the proposed height, bulk, scale, massing, character and setbacks of the development are likely to detract from the built environment.’

In conclusion, this proposal has been completely rejected by staff.

How will Northern JRPP handle this proposal? Will this be rejected or be accepted with conditions? And if it comes with conditions, will they actually make Ewingsdale a better or worse road?

This decision will have huge implications for the unwanted West Byron development.

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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