Opinion & image Dailan Pugh
West Byron has raised its ugly head again as a group of local landholders attempt to use the courts to force their excessive and inappropriate over-development of a sensitive site, adjacent to the Belongil Estuary, upon the Byron community, against its will and best interests.
Last year, after a prolonged struggle, the Byron community managed to convince the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) to refuse two development applications (DAs) for West Byron. Now the Site R&D has risen from the dead to menace us again.
Didn’t wait for DA decision
Not to be thwarted, the local landholders commenced legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court against Byron Council, for deemed refusal, before the NRPP even had a chance to consider their Site R&D DA.
The NRPP concurred with Byron Council in giving 20 reasons for refusal. These primarily related to the inadequate assessment and mitigation of fill and stormwater impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems, and the Belongil Estuary, along with the failure to comply with a multitude of planning requirements.
Not in public interest
The NRPP found ‘the site is not considered to be suitable for the proposed development in view of the identified constraints (acid sulfate soils, bushfire vegetation, flood prone land, high environmental value vegetation, koala habitat and threatened flora and fauna)’.
Most significantly, the NRPP concluded ‘the proposed development is not considered in the public interest’.
No substantial change
Now the local landholders have fiddled with their DA, seemingly to overcome some of the most blatant legal deficiencies, while minimising any meaningful changes. This minimally altered proposal has been put back on public exhibition until 9 April, giving you a chance to have a say before it goes back to court for them to decide whether to impose this monstrosity upon us.
They still intend clearing and fragmenting koala habitat, building a 4m high wall adjacent to Ewingsdale Road, importing 470,000 cubic metres of fill, and directing huge volumes of polluted stormwater into the Belongil Estuary and the Cape Byron Marine Park.
Site R&D say they now intend to subdivide into 162 lots, though this includes 25 super-lots intended for further subdivision. Three super-lots do not identify what further subdivision is intended, two are proposed for flats, and 20 show an indicative subdivision into 208 smaller lots. Many larger lots are capable of further subdivision and shop-top housing is also intended.
66% traffic increase
The traffic study is based upon 470 dwellings for Site R&D, for the whole development, generating another 14,000 car movements a day on Ewingsdale Road. Current traffic is around 21,000 car movements a day, so this is a 66 per cent increase.
I find it outrageous that a group of local landowners are trying to use the courts to shove their unwanted and inappropriate development down our throats, without any substantive changes – despite it already being rejected by Council, the NRPP and the community.
Villaworld Byron Bay, owned by Tower Holdings, have also taken Byron Council to court over their refused DA. They too are redrafting their DA, though at least they are telling us they will put forward a greatly reduced proposal which will address many of our concerns. Time will tell.
While there are innumerable reasons for rejecting Site R&D’s over-development, it is important that you show the Land and Environment Court that it is not in the community’s best interests by making a submission through Council’s website, you have until 9 April. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, just state that you object.
Check Byron Residents’ Group website and Facebook for updates.