Story & photo Eve Jeffery
A development planned for Eureka has some of the locals pretty upset at what they see as Byron Shire Council breaking its own rules to accommodate the construction of 15 ‘rural living lots’ on what is currently farmland.
The DA, lodged by EGS Investments Pty Ltd, is for 149 Federal Drive, Eureka, and seeks to convert what the locals see as ‘a viable operating macadamia orchard and cattle grazing property’ to a Community Title (CT) development.
Hilarie Dunn’s residence will be in full view of two of the five, three-dwelling clusters and she is at a loss to understand why they are going ahead.
‘The DA is seeking to replace a large macadamia farm and cattle property with 15 residential blocks. It is completely at odds with the Council’s own strategy for the Byron Shire – in particular the Byron Rural Land Use Strategy (RLUS) 2017 and the Byron Local Environment Plan.’
Pleas for Byron Council to follow its own regulations – again
Ms Dunn says she feels the development will rob the Shire of prime agricultural land forever.
‘I want the Council to follow its own guidelines and reject this proposal. At the very least, reduce the scale of it maybe to five or six.’
Ms Dunn says the residents of Eureka have made numerous submissions that have clearly stated why this development is too big for Eureka.
‘Our objections seem to have made no impression on Council.’
The residents also feel it is unfair that most of the councillors spent time at the property, yet they were only given five minutes to speak to Council themselves. They say that their submissions were summarily dismissed and that no community consultation took place.
The agenda for a Council planning meeting about the DA, dated May 16, 2019, does appear to have responses for most of the two dozen submissions which opposed the DA.
But on the question of the lack of community consultation prior to lodgement, the agenda reads: ‘While community consultation prior to lodgement is ideal, it is not a legislative planning requirement.’
Another resident, Geoffrey Cotton, says that the land is State Significant Farmland, and should be protected from competing uses like residential development.
‘There are two big problems here. The first is the loss of top-quality agricultural land and the second is the issue of the responsibility of development applicants to provide full and honest information, and to support any claims they make’.
Echonetdaily contacted all of the Byron Shire councillors. Cr Alan Hunter is so far the only one to respond.
Cr Hunter said he reviewed his notes, conditions of consent, and the staff recommendations in relation to this DA to further confirm Council’s decision.
‘There is an expectation by some in the Byron community that neighbours have a right to veto a neighbouring development application. That is not the case. Neighbours and the broader community are invited, through the public exhibition process, to raise with our professional planning staff their concerns about the likely impacts of such development.
‘Council rarely hears from anyone happy with a development application, most accept the process and get on with their life.
‘In this case, many issues were raised, but the issue most concerning to Council was the use of the 15 dwellings, and to not allow holiday letting and the associated negative impacts to become an issue in the future, so that was addressed in the resolution.
‘It is a large block of land and now more families can enjoy a rural lifestyle in the highly sought after coastal hinterland environment’.
Yet the residents don’t see it that way. Ms Dunn says, ‘I can’t afford to fight this by myself. Council needs to protect our countryside and agricultural land’.