The long-running dispute over the future of Byron’s Railway Park rotunda appears to be a step closer to resolution, after Council agreed to give the much-loved structure a permanent home in the park.
Council has been endeavouring to resolve the question of the rotunda’s fate ever since it gave the building’s inhabitants – the Byron Environment Centre – an eviction notice in October 2017 without consulting them or the community.
That eviction was hastily withdrawn a month later following an intense public backlash, but Council’s plan for a major redevelopment in the park meant the building still faced an uncertain future.
That uncertainty was partly addressed at last Thursday’s full Council meeting, when councillors voted to give the rotunda a permanent home on the northern edge of the park next to the Commonwealth Bank.
Acting mayor Michael Lyon (Greens) also included a provision for that part of the park’s redevelopment to be completed first so that the building only has to be moved once.
The BEC’s convenor John Lazarus said the group wasn’t entirely happy with the location, but was willing to live with the compromise.
‘I think it lowers the profile of the rotunda in town, but looking at it pragmatically it does give it a permanent home in the centre of town,’ he said.
‘We think there are things we can do to revitalise that part of the park.’
While the future of the rotunda now appears secure, it remains to be seen whether the BEC will have a permanent home there.
The resolution at last week’s Council meeting states that an expression of interest process will now be held to determine who gets use of the building.
Cr Lyon told the meeting that he expected the BEC would ‘probably be the only applicant’ in this process, but this does not guarantee the BEC’s long-term future in the park.
‘I’d prefer for the process to be completely open and transparent than to get the lease on the quiet,’ Mr Lazarus said.
‘But if we do get the lease it will really depend on how long the term is. If it’s 21 years then we can feel confident that we have a long-term home.’
Questions also remain as to Council’s claim to ‘own’ the rotunda, with some maintaining that the structure itself is owned by the man who built it more than two decades ago. Council staff’s position is that Australian law doesn’t recognise splitting the ownership of a building from the land it sits on, and so it must ‘retain ownership of the structure’ if it is to stay in the park.