Residents living in and around Saddle Road between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads fear plans for an industrial estate and business park could be a Trojan horse for broader residential development in their rural enclave.
But the owners of the property who have put the plan forward said local businesses needed suitable, flood-free land to operate, or they would continue to leave the Shire. Two months ago, Skai and Kelvin Daly applied to have part of their sprawling property, which lies between Saddle Road and Gulgan Road, included in Council’s Business and Industrial Lands strategy.
This was one of a number of late inclusions in the strategy – including land at Bangalow – which were not subject to the initial round of public consultation for the strategy, a fact that has angered some residents.
The Saddle Road site is the same property that was to have become the Bruns Eco Village (BEV) – that idea was shelved following strong opposition from surrounding landowners, and Council setbacks.
Under the new proposal, the land would be divided into four precincts spanning 11.8 hectares.
The first, located at 66 The Saddle Road, would be home to a business park with a series of multiple small buildings.
The remaining three precincts, located on both sides of Gulgan Road, would be home to a traditional industrial estate with warehouses and regular truck movements.
In their submission to Council, the Dalys said the site had the advantage of being close to the highway interchange, allowing easy access for large trucks, and was largely free from constraints such as flood risk.
Skai Daly said there was a need for a business park to provide employment for those living in the north of the Shire. ‘We envisage a business park… where local small businesses can cluster together and take advantage of being with other like-minded businesses,’ she said.
In a related submission, local company ‘Regionality’ said the site was ideal for a small-scale regional produce precinct.
This was part of a broader opportunity to ‘activate a valuable, sustainable, local food system that connects into the domestic market and can develop a path for export’.
However, a significant number of the surrounding landowners and residents across the area more broadly oppose the plan, making their feelings plain at a Council-run public consultation session last week.
Saddle Road resident and president of the Community Alliance for Byron Shire, Matthew O’Reilly, said he and other residents wanted the area to retain its rural character. ‘This [proposed development] would mean a big chunk of industrial, agricultural production, a distribution hub, and a big business park,’ he said.
‘We’re also concerned that if they get this large area included (in the strategy) it then means that the state government changes the urban growth area map.
‘It would then be much easier to rezone the land for residential.
‘We’re concerned that this could be a Trojan horse for that rezoning.’
Another common theme during the public discussion at last week’s meeting was the objection to an industrial area at the gateway to Brunswick Heads. ‘Council’s background report found that eight to 10 hectares of additional land are required to meet the Shire’s employment needs,’ Mr O’Reilly said.
‘They’re now proposing an additional five hectares. They’re potentially supplying far more industrial land than Byron needs. I just don’t see the justification.’
In response to the concerns about loss of character, Ms Daly said the employment lands strategy ‘seeks to consider sites on their merit’ and the decision to include land ‘sits with Council whose responsibility is to balance the various needs and views of the community’.
When asked about the possibility that the proposal would lead to rezoning large parts of the Saddle Road area for residential development, she said: ‘Council decided to omit Saddle Road from their Residential Strategy’.