Staff at Byron Council locked themselves into recommending the approval of a seven-cabin tourism development in Wilsons Creek by approving a similar development earlier in the year, the president of the Community Alliance for Byron Shire (CABS) says.
The proposal for seven tourist cabins at Montecollum Rd Wilsons Creek was ultimately rejected by Byron Council at its August planning and development meeting.
However, staff had recommended approval of the proposal.
CABS President Matthew O’Reilly believes staff made this decision because they were guided by an ‘undesirable precedent’ they themselves had set when they approved a DA at 725 Myocum Road, Myocum under delegated authority.
‘The approval of seven cabins should never have been made under delegated authority as it appears to have set an undesirable precedent that Councillors are now expected to comply with,’ Mr O’Reilly said.
‘It was the first ever DA in Byron Shire to approve more than six cabins.
‘Up until that point there had never been more than six rural tourist cabins approved on one property.’
Part of the reason for the approval at Myocum Rd appears to have been a lack of clarity in Council’s planning policies in relation to rural cabins.
While the Byron Rural Settlement Strategy 1998 (BRSS) and the Byron Local Environment Plan 1988 (LEP) both stipulated that a maximum of six cabins was permitted in rural-zoned areas, the Byron LEP 2014 and the Byron Development Control Plan 2014 (DCP) are silent on a maximum number of cabins.
The latter documents instead refer to a maximum number of bedrooms.
Mr O’Reilly said he believed the omission of a maximum number of cabins was a drafting error on the part of council staff that needed to be rectified.
‘I think they just made an error in the drafting and left it out,’ Mr O’Reilly said.
‘These things happen, it’s human error. But I think it needs to be fixed and will hopefully be fixed.’
Further complicating the issue is the fact that, in at least in some parts of the Shire, the BRSS and the 1998 LEP still appear to apply, while in other areas there are overlapping policies that must be considered when determining applications.
When asked about this situation and the role of the Myocum Rd precedent, Council’s chief planner, Shannon Burt, said all development applications were assessed on their merits, including 58 Montecollum Road.
‘Council has the tricky role, particularly in rural parts of the Shire, of trying to balance people’s desire for no development against the rights of land owners to develop their properties,’ Ms Burt said.
‘To try to make it clear to people what the rules and regulations are we are now reviewing the planning controls for cabins and other dwellings on rural land to eliminate confusion in the Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan.
‘We are hoping to present this review and recommendations back to Council early next year.’