An over 55s estate behind the Byron hospital on Ewingsdale Road is again being proposed, this time by ASX-listed corporation Ingenia Communities.
Community consultation for its ‘lifestyle community’ plans will be held at Ewingsdale Community Hall from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, July 25. Local residents are invited to attend.
Back in 2016, the development proposed by the then-owners of the two parcels (15.8 ha in total), that surround the hospital, drew considerable opposition from residents.
At the time, Council refused the proposed mixed commercial, medical and residential development.
The proponents also appealed to the NSW planning department to take it out of the Council’s hands.
At the time, Greens mayor Simon Richardson, Cr Duncan Dey, Labor’s Paul Spooner and independent Cr Basil Cameron had the numbers to defeat the proposal.
Byron Residents’ Group representative Cate Coorey said at the time, ‘There are federal, state and local strategies for ageing; this proposal did not meet any of them’.
Yet with the new plans, the company says it will work with Byron Council on its planning proposal.
Project leader Paul Brumpton says, ‘Ingenia has also confirmed that several elements that featured in a prior proposal for the site will be abandoned, including: any commercial, retail or medical uses – as they are inconsistent with the site and the surrounding community, and multi-storey development – as Ingenia believes it can achieve a better outcome with single-storey built form commercial uses for Higgins House’.
Mr Brumpton said, ‘We look forward to engaging with the local community and stakeholders in coming weeks and beyond as we shape our ideas.’
There are plans to restore Higgins House, ‘in a way that is consistent with its heritage values – and co-designing future uses, in partnership with the community’.
The company is also committing to ‘upfront funding for the construction of a roundabout upgrade at the intersection of Ewingsdale Rd and McGettigans Lane’.
Mr Brumpton said they will retain ‘all environmentally significant trees on the site, including all fig trees, and a program of environmental repair and management’.
Additionally, a ‘clear and measurable set of leading-edge sustainable design outcomes’ will be established, ‘informed by expert and local consultants’.
Q&A with the project leader
Is this a joint venture (JV) proposal with the Belbecks? They did, or still own, land around the hospital. Was the land recently acquired by Ingenia Communities? If so, from whom?
‘The proposal is not a joint venture with the Belbecks. Ingenia has an option over the site, [and] intends to acquire it and will proceed with its own proposal for a lifestyle community for over 55s’.
Presumably this project will require a rezoning of the land from rural to residential?
‘There are currently a mix of different zonings across the site. We will be seeking to progress a rezoning to support the creation of an over 55s lifestyle community’.
Will this be in any way affordable? Is there a price range proposed for the units, for example?
‘It is too early to be precise, because the price range may depend on the nature and extent of any development approval. However, we recognise the need for the price to reflect the ability of people in the region who might consider purchasing in any project to sell their home, buy in, and retain some equity’.
Is there a proposal for the size of the development? Is it available to see? ie How many units, how big they would be, what open spaces there would be etc.
‘The precise number of residents will be subject to our community engagement process, and the final planning approval.
‘However, there will be significantly less density than the prior proposal, and all residences will be single storey detached dwellings.
‘It will be significantly different than the prior proposal. This includes excluding commercial, retail or medical uses, committing to a single-storey built form, restoring Higgins House consistent with its heritage values, running a co-design process with the community to determine future uses of Higgins House, and preserving all trees of environmental significance.
‘We are currently undertaking community engagement on our initial thoughts for the site to develop a plan that balances the demand for over 55s to have the option to retire or age in place with a proposal that respects the heritage and conservation values of the site and community.
‘We believe we can constrain development to about 45 percent of the site and keep the majority for open space for environmental management and rejuvenation, particularly on the eastern portion of the site.
‘All environmentally significant trees, including the landmark fig trees, will be preserved, and we will add further trees and landscaping across the site that enhances biodiversity outcomes.
‘Offset plantings will be utilised to replace formerly cleared riparian areas and re-establish an extensive area of riparian vegetation east of Simpsons Creek.
‘The orientation and design of the site has been deliberate in ensuring the sight lines to Higgins House are preserved from Ewingsdale Road, and the master plan will be designed to minimise the visual impact of the proposed community on surrounding residents’.
Is there a parent company that owns Ingenia Communities?
‘No, Ingenia Communities is listed on the ASX (ASX: INA).
‘A broad concept plan on our initial thinking for the site can be seen on our website: www.ingenialifestyle.com.au/ewingsdale’.