On Monday at the Byron Theatre it was standing room only as over 200 community stakeholders gathered to listen to the final public submissions on Villa World’s component of the West Byron development application (DA) and hear the Northern Regional Planning Panel’s (NRPP) decision .
On the five member panel were John Griffin, Stephen Gow, Katie Milne and Vanessa Ekins which was chaired by Garry West. Mr West acknowledged that the Villa World DA was an issue that people were very passionate about and asked that everyone remain respectful and time aware during the event.
Though many aspects of the opposition were covered during the afternoon, including the indigenous heritage of the site, wildlife, aesthetics and social suitability, the way water moved was one of the major issues with flooding a major concern.
Villa World rejected
At the end of the event it was a win for the opposition who got the outcome they wanted with the NRPP rejecting the DA.
Dailan Pugh was one of many speakers during the afternoon. Mr Pugh was delighted by the outcome.
‘The relief was audible, and quickly became deafening with another standing ovation, when the Northern River’s Planning Panel refused Villa World’s DA at West Byron,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘Their reasons for refusal reflect the concerns that the community have being raising for the past decade, and those that the government chose to ignore when they rezoned the site to impose the potential for such outrageous developments on the Byron community in 2014.
‘While the community have prevailed for the second time, and again had their concerns validated, it has taken immense effort and a concerted campaign to get a fair hearing. It is not over yet.’
No social or environmental license
Newly reelected MP Tamara Smith said this another great win for our community and people power. ‘The thousands of community submissions and actions highlighting the fundamental flaws in developing this land have successfully culminated in the NRPP rejecting both subdivision plans – against the odds,’ she said.
‘With the rejection of both the West Byron subdivision applications by the NRPP the developers should immediately approach the State government and request that they buy the land and restore it to the Cumbebin Swamp Reserve.
Ms Smith said there is no social or environmental license for a subdivision of the swamp land known as West Byron. ‘So why waste more money on legal battles when the community is utterly opposed.
‘Restitution is on offer for the landowners and they should jump at the chance to be made whole and walk away. They need only look to Condon Hill at Lennox to see decades of iconic land ownership that has never passed muster to see development on it. Get out now is my advice.
‘I strongly advise Byron Shire Council to shelve any idea of a reduced sub-division and instead respectfully ask them to help me actually deliver what the community wants – No West Byron Mega-development.”
Former Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham also spoke to the panel. She said she wanted to acknowledge the amazing efforts of the community in their justifiable opposition to the inappropriate proposals for the West Byron lands.
‘This development fails on every point,’ she said. ‘From the destruction of biodiversity and the threat to the local koala population and wallum froglet, the filling of a flood prone area, likely negative impact on the Belongil Creek and the Cape Byron Marine Park and further traffic chaos on Ewingsdale Road, that will not be alleviated by the bypass.
‘I’m confident these points have been raised in sufficient detail in the submissions to inform a refusal.’
Ms Barham summed up the general feeling on the day. ‘The refusal of Villa World by the Planning Panel alongside the previous West Byron refusal, justifies years of commitment by our community to protect and preserve our special place, with evidence, passion and genuine concern for the future,’ she said after the decision was announced.
‘It makes me feel so proud to be a member of an activist community who knows the value of standing up for what we believe in and thankfully, this time, the independence of the process delivered the right outcome.
‘Well done to everyone who took the time to be involved, no doubt there will be more challenges to come but the refusals vindicates us and our role as protectors.’