Plans for an affordable housing development minutes from the centre of Mullumbimby could be put on hold at next week’s Byron Shire Council meeting following a flood of opposition from local residents.
Council has earmarked a 29.2ha site behind the Mullumbimby Community Gardens, known as ‘Lot 22’ , for affordable housing in a bid to address the Shire’s worsening affordability crisis.
But in a report to be tabled at Council’s April 11 planning meeting, council staff recommend the preparation of a new study and structure plan for the site which would delay any progress on the proposal for at least six months.
Staff also recommend that there then be a further report to ‘consider the future of the planning proposal for Lot 22’, something which could spell the end of the project entirely.
The staff recommendations follow a raft of written submissions objecting to the plan, and a community consultation meeting for the site on February 6 at which scores of residents, and the SES, also voiced their opposition.
Among the biggest concerns expressed by residents in relation to the proposal was the flood-prone nature of the site.
While a Council-commissioned study found that this risk could be ameliorated through careful design, many residents disputed the data and analysis that this study was based on.
They also argued that the land in question was needed for public recreation (it is currently zoned for this use), and that a housing development would create traffic and access issues.
A small proportion of those who attended the meeting spoke in favour of the proposal, arguing that urgent action was needed to address the affordability crisis in the Shire, which is forcing out young families and frontline workers such as nurses, teachers, community services workers and police.
Some of these residents argued that trying to keep things as they are by opposing new housing development was ultimately counterproductive because it simply led to an accelerated process of gentrification in which the Shire turned into a place that was entirely populated by rich people and retirees.