What will Byron Bay look like in the future? How will the town be shaped, grow, change and develop?
Two key documents are currently open for comment on how this will be achieved: the Draft Residential Strategy and the Byron Bay Town Centre: Review of Planning Rules, also known as the design control plans (DCP). Comment on this document has been extended to 15 November owing to lack of public advertising or media releases on the changes.
One of the key concerns raised has been the idea of removing the floor-space ratio (FSR) that traditionally determines the bulk and scale of buildings in favour of ‘design excellence’ as the means of assessing future developments.
‘There are some good objectives including the pedestrianisation of the town and reducing car dominance,’ says Dr Phillip Pollard, who sits on the Urban Design Panel for Lake Macquarie City Council, which uses a similar approach to design excellence. However, he says the document in its current format is ‘a well-intentioned but naive document’.
‘I’m concerned that the draft won’t achieve the stated objectives and could be quite counterproductive.’
Dr Pollard, a former Byron Shire councillor who also sits on the state panel for significant developments and advises a number of other councils on planning and design, says that managing development through a design-excellence process can be done but it needs a strong set of provisions for it to work effectively.
‘You need a rigorous process to have a hope of achieving design excellence,’ Dr Pollard said. ‘To achieve that you need a truly independent panel to provide advice to council.’
In particular Dr Pollard said the provisions put into the Local Environment Plan (LEP) need to be strong if they are to stand up in court. ‘It needs teeth for the LEP to be held up in court, as it is the LEP that carries greater weight in court than the DCP.’
Former Byron Shire Mayor and state MP Jan Barham said, ‘The Masterplan identified that better design of the built environment is required, and I support that, but it needs to be a fully informed and cautious approach. The Byron Bay Masterplan Implementation Plan stated that Floor Space Ratio (FSR) would be amended to either remove the need, or to establish a FSR that supports the built form aspirations for the town centre. This hasn’t been done.’
The DCP also recommends extending the building height to 11.5m in the area between Lawson Street and Bay Lane (behind the Beach Hotel) stating that this would not affect the view of the town from the beach due to the angle of the land.
Local architect Christine Vadasz has said that on a recent kayak trip in the Bay ‘looking back it still has that sleepy town look because it is still low rise’ and that it is important to keep the town ‘quirky and different’.
‘But the town has three ways to go – up, out or in,’ she said. ‘We don’t want to go out or up, so the place has to become more dense. We need to be more creative with open spaces, they don’t have to be big but they need to be creative with vegetation, and at a human scale.’