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July 31, 2021

Linnaeus Estate pushes for wellbeing retreat

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A public meeting to discuss a development proposal, at a gated beachside estate, situated between Byron Bay and Lennox Head will be held at the Broken Head Community Hall on Sunday March 1, from 4pm.

A public meeting to discuss a ‘low-scale wellbeing retreat’ development proposal, at a gated beachside estate, situated between Byron Bay and Lennox Head will be held at the Broken Head Community Hall on Sunday March 1, from 4pm.

Council staff have told Echonetdaily the Linnaeus Estate DA will go before the Northern Regional Planning Panel.

While a DA is yet to be lodged, it has stirred neighbours into action.

According to the owners, ‘The 111.2 hectare property is covered by a combination of special activities – mixed use, environmental, private education and some rural zonings. While the zoning allows for tourism, the property is currently only approved for private education.

‘The application will seek to continue with current uses, as well as establish a low-scale eco-retreat, incorporating the existing facilities – pool, communal buildings and tennis court. The pool area would be upgraded with wellness facility (spa), toilets and showers and an evacuation building, back of house (office space, staff amenities and parking), bin and storage area and garden shed would be constructed.

‘The application proposes that 11 approved, but unbuilt, units with a combined floor space of 2,388m2 not be erected. That instead, 33 new two-person cabins/treehouses with a combined floor space of 1,862m2 be constructed for eco-retreat guests’. 

Former Greens mayor and NSW MLC, Jan Barham, has flagged her concerns, which range from climate change impacts, foreseeable risk of future erosion and liability of Council.

Barham said, ‘It is unbelievable, with the coastal problems Council has been dealing with for decades, that in 2020, Council would create new lots in a coastal risk area, especially when they have declared a climate emergency.

‘There is also the likelihood of a repeat of historical events such as cyclones and east coast lows that could ravage this section of coast, and with Council supporting the new zonings in the risk area, there are serious consequences.

‘Disturbingly the proposal has identified as per the staff report: “15 lots in the coastal erosion zone,” but states that this will be dealt with by conditions of consent for any of the structures to comply with the relocatable provisions of the LEP and DCP.’

Developer replies

One of the developers, Brandon Saul, has hosed down what he says are misunderstandings about the proposal and process.

He told Echonetdaily that the proposal will not increase the number of people staying onsite ‘above what has already been adopted in the Rural Land Use strategy’.

Responding to queries as to expected numbers, he says ‘I suspect we’d be lucky to get 20 people at a time interested in the type of things we’d be looking to present’.

When asked of claims by neighbour Lois Hunt whether this DA is motivated purely by profit and ‘why not stand by what the original developers intended?,’ Saul replied, ‘Ultimately, I think all development is driven by economics. So, I think the honest answer to this question is that this is one of those cases where the more profitable thing to do will, in fact, provide the best outcome for the site, and the community, in which it sits’.

Echonetdaily also asked, ‘Presumably this rezoning can be a catalyst for expanded operations in the future – ie a thin edge of the wedge?’

Saul replied, ‘We are not asking Council to re-zone the property. Tourism is already a permissible use on the land we propose to use for our retreat. That said, the “thin end of the wedge” argument represents a valid concern.

‘On that point, I’d encourage those that are concerned to take a closer look at the site and our proposal. While Linnaeus is a large parcel of land, most of it is not suitable for development and never will be. Much of it has already been voluntarily earmarked for ecological preservation under the council’s new “e zone” process and much of it is low lying grassland, not suitable to development.

‘We invite people to attend our community information sessions this Friday and Saturday. Bookings can be made via Eco Tourism Proposal’.

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