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October 28, 2021

Byron CBD height limits could exceed 11.5m

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Council staff are seeking raise the building height along Lawson Street to 11.5m

A Council staff proposal to increase flood level planning height within Council’s review of Byron Bay town centre planning rules could potentially increase heights within the town above the 11.5m limit.

Submissions for the CBD review closed November 15, yet late submissions can be taken into consideration.

Other proposals include raising the building height along Lawson Street to 11.5m and allowing staff to decide upon what they consider ‘design excellence’, potentially leading to increased density within the CBD.

Greens mayor Simon Richardson denies that property owners are behind the planning wishlist, saying ‘No, the [proposal] just make planning sense.’

A press release regarding the planning rule review was updated on October 3, yet didn’t mention the flood level planning height proposed increase, why the review was needed, and no councillor resolution was mentioned. The town’s masterplan document is referenced as justification for the changes.

Byron’s CBD height limit has been historically a battle ground for elections, with many candidates over the years calling for height limits in an effort to distinguish the town from the Gold Coast. Without warning in mid November last year, Labor councillor Paul Spooner with Greens support voted to standardise the town’s height limit at 11.5m, which The Echo understands can accommodate four storeys. The plans were later retracted after public outcry.

Flood level planning height

Regarding the increase of flood level planning height, on page 6 of the planning proposal it reads, ‘for areas within the Town Centre that are flood prone, ground floor levels will need to be set above existing ground levels (varying from 0.4-1.2m)’.

Additionally replacing floor space ratio with ‘design excellence’ design controls is only mentioned briefly as a draft policy formulated by the NSW Government Architect in 2017 (page 14). On page 41, the full ‘design excellence’ provision reads in part, ‘In determining whether a proposed development exhibits design excellence, the following matters are to be addressed, to the satisfaction of the consent authority… arrangements have been made to ensure that the proposed design is carried through to the completion of the development including commitments to achieve certification under a nationally recognised sustainable rating system.’
Some of what Council staff are proposing include: ‘Zoning change to B3 Commercial, Building Height change for one small area of Lawson Street – existing height limits remain unchanged for remainder of town centre, floor space ratio removal subject to the addition of design controls applicable to the town centre, Design controls to include ‘design excellence’ and changes to how car parking is delivered for new development to reduce cars in town centre’.

Labor councillor Jan Hackett told The Echo the plan was ‘brought to councillors by staff through workshops’.

‘We have been well informed and it was argued through positively. I don’t see it as being detrimental to our masterplan vision and it should consolidate contained development in the centre’.

Mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo that the review ‘aims to facilitate building design that promotes people over vehicles in the town centre.’

‘…ultimately the review is to get feedback on ideas to achieve better designs into the CBD, a height increase for a tiny section of one street to match the height of the surrounding area and to find ways to get parked cars out of the CBD’.

‘All of these ideas are best practice town planning and were workshopped and shared throughout the masterplan process with councillors, community members, property owners, businesses and community organisations’.

Concerns from former mayor and MLC

A lengthy 17 page analysis of the proposals by former mayor and state MLC Jan Barham raised many concerns, with one being ‘Without prescriptive controls on the scale, density and height of the town, then the character will change’.

‘In general, the planning proposal fails to identify the studies, data and analysis that has been relied upon to put forward and support these planning changes.

‘There are no options proposed or scenario planning for the community to comment on. It basically comes down to support or oppose, and owing to the lack of information and options I’m OPPOSED’.

‘I can’t see evidence of integration or understanding of the potential for cumulative impact and the importance of an integrated planning approach informed by ESD principles and an IAP2 Community Engagement Plan.

Barham suggests instead completing other strategies first, ‘including the new Tourism Management Plan, the Byron Bay Town Centre Access and Movement Strategy, the Draft Employment Lands Strategy.’

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