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April 15, 2021

Large Browning and Jonson St DA is back, but neighbours still unhappy

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An estimated 976 vehicle movements per day would use the narrow Ruskin Lane under a large Byron CBD DA. Image from DA 10.2019.616.1, which is on exhibition until February 7.

Hans Lovejoy

A contentious large three storey commercial development at the southern end of Jonson Street is again before the public, and like the previous development application (DA), it has angered immediate neighbours.

The DA’s traffic report predicts 976 daily vehicle movements, all proposed within a narrow back lane which adjoins residential sized buildings. 

Located on the corner block opposite Mitre 10 and Byron Music, the proposal is by JGD Developments and lists Graham Dunn, and son Jason as directors.

It is also the site where a large roundabout is to be constructed for Council’s beleaguered Butler Street bypass project, perhaps making it one of the busiest roundabouts in Byron Bay.

Rejected in 2018

Graham Dunn’s 2017 DA was rejected by the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) in October 2018, yet remarkably Council’s planning staff recommended approval despite strong opposition and it not adhering to Council policies. The panel was the determining authority, not Council, owing to it being valued at over $20m. 

Dunn’s proposal came under the spotlight because he was a member of the Byron Bay Masterplan committee at the time. He later resigned, yet justified the development’s height exceedance in the DA with yet-to-be adopted suggestions by the masterplan committee. Page 69 of the plan suggests the Jonson Street south precinct be ‘incrementally transformed into a mixed-use district that supports medium-density living and local business.’   

In August last year, the developer began negotiations with neighbours and reduced the proposal from four storeys to three, and withdrew the holiday letting component. Instead, 28 permanent residential apartments are now included in the DA.

Developer Graham Dunn. Photo supplied.

So what else has changed since the last DA?

The developer says ‘Only 5.8 per cent of the site is above the 9m height limit because of the slope of the site’.

Dunn also claims ‘increased northern boundary set backs, removal of the child care centre owing to concerns from immediate neighbours, the addition of a timber arbour on Jonson and Browning Streets, and increased landscaping of the street frontage’.

The proposed site consists of approximately 2,400m2 of residential and 1,560m2 of commercial areas, and will cost just over $19m.

This is below the $23.18m cost for the previous DA.

Dunn says, ‘This development is the first in many years in the B2 commercial zone (Byron Town Centre) to provide for permanent residential accommodation, with no holiday letting’.

Ruskin Lane access

The proposed two-level basement 125 carpark space would be accessed from Ruskin Lane, and to address amenity concerns, Dunn’s DA suggests acoustic fencing and a convex mirror ‘to improve the sight lines for the pedestrians with respect to vehicles exiting Ruskin Lane’.

Yet the suggestions have been met by some neighbours as a ‘grossly unfair, self-interested grab of the single lane residential access.’

The Browning Street Residents Group (BSRG) say they consist of five residentially-zoned landowners who depend on Ruskin Lane for safe vehicle access.

Spokesperson Annette Feletti says they are ‘surrounded on three sides by commercially and educationally zoned land; the subject of the non-conforming DA, a large and noisy student accommodation complex and a retail premises’.

She told Echonetdaily, ‘We are angry, surprised and confused that a local developer thinks he can slip through a highly controversial development under the cover of the January holiday period so as to minimise objection.’

‘This new DA is basically the same as the 2017 one, which was unceremoniously and comprehensively thrown out by the Northern Regional Planning Panel in 2018.

‘Recent reports of incidents involving cars and pedestrians leaving the Mercato complex will be greatly exceeded by the dangerous interaction of pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would be caused by the limited sight-lines using Ruskin Lane,’ said the BSRG.

‘What will the developer say to a parent whose child is run over because they didn’t know they had to look into an elevated convex mirror before continuing to walk along or ride their scooter on the footpath?’

And the plans aren’t without other obstacles.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) compliance report lists 14 aspects that will ‘require further review.’

Within the DA’s community consultation report, developer Dunn admits ‘…traffic impacts were primarily in relation to the property known as Byron Palms Guesthouse located at 5-7 Browning Street.’

But he argues that vehicles from his development, ‘would use the first eight metres of Ruskin Lane, off Browning Street only. The total length of Ruskin Lane is approximately 175 metres’.

Yet residents maintain that Dunn’s reliance on the Council policy of preferring rear lanes for commercial access is only relevant for commercial areas that do not border on residentially zoned land.

The Browning Street Residents Group spokesperson said, ‘It is pushing it well beyond the correct context of the policy to say that Council prefers to subject adjoining residential properties to commercial alleyway traffic, regardless of the consequences’.

Preferred versus compulsory

‘This is a test case for Council. It approved a two lane carpark access directly opposite the development for the Butter Factory. There are plenty of other commercial accesses all the way down Jonson Street.

‘The DCP says “preferred” rather than “compulsory”.

‘It is not mandatory, and discretionary adaptation can occur if Council so desires’.

Yet Dunn maintains, ‘We are required by Byron Shire Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP) to have rear lane access.

‘This is a safer pedestrian option as concluded in the PlanIt report.

‘Page 18 of the Byron Shire DCP 2014 for Commercial and Retail Development states that car parking access is to come from rear lanes’.

Regarding The Butter Factory across the road, Dunn told Echonetdaily, ‘The Butter Factory does not have a rear lane. If it did, this is where access would be. On the western side of Jonson Street, there is no rear lane. On the eastern side, all access is via rear lane’.

Echonetdaily asked Council’s planning staff for clarity on the matter, they replied ‘When the exhibition period finishes planning staff will assess the DA taking into account local and state planning guidelines and legislation as well as the information received during the public exhibition process.’

Out of character?

When challenged about the high density and it being ‘out of character for the area’,  Dunn replied in the community consultation report, ‘The proposed development is of a high architectural standard with significant landscaping… We regret that we have not met the aesthetic tastes of all residents’.

And is there a demand for new shop spaces in the Shire? Dunn believes so, claiming the proposal ‘Would provide quality commercial spaces to meet the demand of tenants.

‘We have considered the Byron Shire Council Draft Employment Lands Strategy and the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan, which outlines a need for integrated mixed-use developments in the southern Jonson Street area’.

Dunn maintains that his team ‘have worked with these land owners for two years’. 

‘At a meeting with them on 25th July 2019, they thanked us for the engagement and said that their last concern was access, which we said was beyond our control’. 

Other Echonetdaily questions awaiting a reply from Council’s planning staff are, ‘Will 976 daily vehicle movements distort modelling that has underpinned the bypass project?’ and, ‘How does this DA align with the Byron Bay Masterplan, Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan, and the Byron Bike Plan, given its aims are to reduce CBD traffic?’

The 31-part DA 10.2019.616.1 is on exhibition until February 7.

Residents say impacted businesses and residents include a Council approved bed and breakfast.

‘1 Ruskin Lane has its only entrance having to contend with two way traffic, including reversing trucks accessing the loading bay of the development. Further up the laneway is a hairpin bend where the two lanes funnel into one. All the residents will be faced with two way traffic down a single laneway. There are three rear entrances which are the only vehicle accesses for the properties’.

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  1. Seems to be losing the Byron Vibe very quickly…
    Its starting to look a little like Robina.
    Perhaps council could bring in a building code that reflects the uniqueness and diversity that… is… Byron rather than another sad flock of bats.. (block of flats) .
    I recon the arcade that was created from a single block off Lawson St one back from Jonson St is a simple and unique example.
    The architect who designed that was a talented genius.

  2. Barbarians… sorry I mean developers at the gates trying to loot Byron for all it is worth. I really don’t like human beings atm.


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