The decision to approve part of the highly controversial West Byron development is due to be made on Monday October 8, but locals and councillors are outraged at the enormous quantities of new documentation submitted to the Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPP) website on Wednesday with more due to go up today. This is coupled with the fact that much of the information can’t be deciphered due to the quality of the uploads.
‘An additional 198 pages of documents have been added to the documents on the planning panel (JRPP) website only five days before the hearing on Monday – and there are more to come from Council,’ said Councillor Cate Coorey.
Councillor Coorey also points out that uploading the additional information so close to the meeting is a breach of the JRPPs own operational procedures that state:
‘The meeting agenda, business papers/assessment reports and attachments, including any representations made by councils, are to be distributed to members of the planning panel and uploaded on the planning panels’ website by the secretariat no less than 7 days prior to the meeting.’
However, the Byron Shire Council and the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) have stated that neither the JRPP Operational Procedures or the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 prevents applicants submitting such information for consideration and assessment up to the point of determination.
None-the-less many of the recently uploaded documents are so poorly scanned that the legends and keys necessary to decipher them can’t be read.
‘The meeting process is farcical when a huge amount of illegible, late information is presented for consideration by people who are determining the fate of Byron into the future,’ says Councillor Coorey.
Why it was late
The late uploading of the material is due to the fact that the developers, including Site R&D Pty Ltd, had only supplied the additional information, that had been asked for in April, to Byron Shire Council on September 19.
Site R&D director Stuart Murray also acknowledged that they have produced a huge amount of additional material in response to requests from Byron Shire Council.
Speaking to Jim Beatson, a journalist with Bay FM in a recorded conversation yesterday, Stuart said, ‘What was asked for (by council) takes a lot of time to produce… Documentation is a huge task, it’s not like 30 years ago. What’s asked for takes a substantial amount of time to deliver.’
Council assessment not complete
Byron Shire Council has confirmed with Echonetdaily this morning that they may not have finished assessing the additional information before Monday’s JRPP meeting.
‘The applicant for DA10.2017.661.1 submitted additional information which was received by assessment staff after the assessment report for the JRPP was finalised,’ said a spokesperson for council.
‘The additional information is now being considered by staff and an addendum report will be provided to the JRPP for its consideration.
‘Council staff and experts may not have completed a full assessment of the further information prior to Monday’s hearing of the JRPP due to the quantity of information and the limited time available.’
According to local environmental activist Dailan Pugh the new documentation has made it difficult to determine what they are actually asking for in the development application (DA).
‘To overcome the multitude of undersized lots the developers have amalgamated most of them into superlots so that now we have no idea of what they are intending to do within them,’ said Mr Pugh.
‘They have also made other changes to the road layout and drainage in a last minute attempt to fix up other deficiencies. Though, as most of the reports it is based on haven’t been changed this has left a hotchpotch of conflicting assessments, with some lots without road access and services.
‘It is outrageous that at the last minute there have been a raft of major changes to the DA, and the JRPP has still not informed complainants that changes have been made. I only found out yesterday because a colleague told me to look at their website.
‘It is unfair to expect the community to have to digest and respond to such significant changes at the last minute. We no longer know what their proposal really is. The developers refused to respond to any of the community concerns but we can’t ignore their late changes. It is a denial of procedural fairness.’
JRPP meeting to go ahead
JRPP chair Gary West, previously a National party representative, has told Echonetdaily that they won’t be cancelling the meeting scheduled for Monday.
‘We are still waiting for a supplementary assessment to be provided and I’m expecting this on Friday. It should also be uploaded to the website on Friday.
‘We won’t be moving the meeting but we may have to hold a further meeting on another date depending on the nature and detail involved in the supplied documents.’
Mr West pointed out that the late documentation is also a challenge to the panel but that holding a future meeting on the issue was a decision for the panel to make.
This position been supported by a spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) who told Echonetdaily that, ‘On Monday, October 8, the Northern Regional Planning Panel will hear submissions from the community on this DA at a public meeting. At this meeting, the panel will decide whether to defer its decision to allow time to consider the council’s supplementary assessment report.’
Developer taking council to court
While the developer has only recently submitted the extra information requested by council regarding their DA they have in the mean time taken the council to court on the premise of a deemed refusal.
A deemed refusal occurs when a development application is not determined within the set assessment period. If the JRPP refuse Site R&Ds DA they have the option to purse it on the basis of a deemed refusal through the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The JRPP meeting to decide on the application will be held on Monday October 8 at Byron Shire Council’s Mullumbimby chambers at 1pm and is open to the public.