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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Court battle looms over Mullum retreat centre plan

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Paul Bibby

A Land and Environment Court battle is looming over plans for a sprawling wellness retreat centre and campsite on the edge of Mullumbimby.

The owner of the Coolamon Scenic Drive property, Mark Franklyn, wants to create a retreat complex with a day spa, hall, 12 cabins and 122 campsites on the 16.6 hectare site.

But Byron Council has refused his development application on the grounds of ecological impacts and bushfire risk.

The council also says the proposal is inconsistent with the Byron Local Environment Plan (LEP) which specifies that rural tourism can only be approved if it is ‘small scale’.

Mr Franklyn has now appealed this decision to the Land and Environment Court.

In a report to Council’s planning committee meeting, council staff recommended in favour of defending the appeal, setting the scene for a what could be a long and costly court battle.

‘Not defending the appeal will allow it to be determined solely on the applicant’s case,’ council’s major projects planner, Rob Van Iersel said.

‘Given the significance of the issues associated with this application, this option is not recommended.’

Mr Van Iersel notes in the report that the external solicitors engaged by Council to act on its behalf in the matter provided a fee estimate of $43,900.

Council’s General Manager has the authority to pursue legal proceedings on the council’s behalf in matters where the cost will not exceed $50,000.

The matter has already come before the courts once, on January 21, when Council was successful in a pre-trial dispute.

While Council deems the current development proposal to be too large, it is a significant reduction in size from Mr Franklyn’s first application, which involved 239 campsites and a day spa building with a different design.

Both applications were the subject of hundreds of letters of objection from the community while on public exhibition, with the most recent proposal drawing 269 letters of objection and 28 letters of support.

Council’s planning committee meeting will consider the matter on February 21.

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  1. Council planning recommended refusing this proposed development with 22 reasons for refusal. “Ecological impacts and bush fire risk” were only 2 reasons. The other 20 reasons should also be reported. Lack of access to water and sewage being another two that may be important. The LEP and DCP were being ignored in this proposal This is going to be a big court battle. Accurate reporting would help the Council in dealing with this issue.

  2. What about the impact on Coolamon Scenic Drive itself between Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores …a road with no speed limit where people are injured or killed on a regular basis and that already funnels unsuspecting tourists into Mullum via google maps …let alone the impact from all the extra vehicles coming from airports and destinations from the north to this inappropriate develoment…even with an extreme upgrade of the road at councils expense it’s an accident waiting to happen which will cost people’s lives .

  3. There is no reduction in the footprint size of this development. Whilst he reduced the number of sites they still basically kept the same footprint the size of the sites just doubled. It should also be noted that the size of the day spa increased dramatically. At the end of the day he will do as he pleases much like has already occurred on this site


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