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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Wilsons Ck rural tourist accom deferred, despite staff recommending approval   

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The proposed rural tourist accommodation site in Wilsons Creek. Photo supplied.

Hans Lovejoy

The decision on a development application (DA) for a ‘rural tourist accommodation,’ comprising eight cabins, swimming pool and a large entertainment area five kms from Mullum in Wilsons Creek was deferred at Thursday’s planning meeting.

In morning public access of Byron Shire council’s meeting, neighbours assembled in the gallery, and a representative told councillors that there was no consultation by the proponent, who are listed in the staff report as Mr S B Yishay and Ms L B Levi.

And despite Council planning staff recommending approval, it soon became clear that the DA breached numerous Council policies and lacked required information, such as a cultural assessment from the Tweed-Byron Land Council.

The site for six of eight cabins for rural tourist accommodation in Wilsons Creek. Photo supplied.

Broken regulations

Objectors criticised the staff recommendation of approval for what they said was a contentious and flawed DA, as well as criticising the quality of the staff reports.

Unified objections (15) from all surrounding neighbours will also not be a factor in any decision – they will be merely be ‘noted’ as they have with other similar DAs.

A neighbour asked councillors, ‘Why are so many rules being broken for this DA?’

‘We are concerned about traffic – there is no traffic report. There is a rough single lane track in poor condition. It’s unsafe and Council’s engineer agrees it should be upgraded. Who will pay for road upgrade?

‘We welcome conditions [for consent], but Council can’t enforce these conditions, such as loud parties. It will be down to us to complain.’

Another resident says the septic and water tanks described in the DA are inadequate, and that the area is a riparian zone with threatened species.

‘In no way does this benefit the community,’ they said. ‘It’s a private business venture and all surrounding residents and Council will bear the brunt’.

Another issue raised was the possibility that the cabins would potentially provide more beds than initially proposed, given their size.

Longtime Council watcher John Anderson voiced his concerns around the ‘clustering’ or the sparse co-location of the cabins.

He said, ‘The DCP (development control plan) clause says it must be within 80m of the the house. Why hasn’t an application been made for a variation in the DA? Staff doesn’t say why it should be allowed’.

It later emerged that Council are in the process of reviewing their rural tourist accommodation policy, which includes the clustering of dwellings. The clustering definition was described as ‘unclear’ by architect Frank Stuart, who spoke in favour of the DA on behalf of the proponents.

Stuart spruiked the development to councillors as ‘high quality, low impact.’

Yet it also emerged that many requests have been made for road upgrades along Wilsons Creek, with two cars rolling off the steep embankment in recent times. ‘Potholes cause people to drive off the road,’ said a neighbour.

All issues raised in the DA by staff would be addressed, Stuart said, which include a bush fire report, night time restrictions, relocated power lines and addressing the clustering of the cabins.

Neighbours reaction ‘overblown’ says Mayor

An estimated 36 vehicles per day was considered ‘low impact’, Stuart said, adding the proponent would only be required to upgrade the road around where the property is located.

While councillors eventually voted for the DA to be deferred owing to the missing cultural assessment – and a clear lack of clarity around clustering tourist cabins in rural areas – mayor Simon Richardson told the gallery he saw no overarching issue with the proposal.

‘It might attract a few people for the Splendour weekend’, he said. At another point the Greens mayor said he wanted to ‘avoid the old days of court [cases].’

He said, ‘The scale of eight cabins is small. It’s been overblown [by neighbours] as to how many would stay… it’s not unreasonable.’

Cr Cate Coorey disagreed and told the gallery, ‘We might think we are the king of our own domain, but we don’t live in isolation. Good will should be considered here, but it isn’t factored in planning [laws]’.

She said, ‘You can’t say they won’t have four people in a cabin… You can’t anticipate how many there will be. This is a lot of development for a quiet, rural area. The quietness of the area is magnificent. We can’t stop it but we can do better’.

Without any sense of irony that the DA is aimed at tourists, the lone hard right conservative in the room Alan Hunter told the gallery it should be approved owing to the ‘housing crisis’.

Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye added, ‘It offers nothing to the locals or Council in [way of] contributions. If it were affordable housing, I would look at it differently’.

All were in favour of deferment except Cr Hunter.

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