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Byron Shire
October 6, 2022

Have your say on a massive proposal for old Byron Woolies site

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A massive new 146 room hotel is proposed for the existing old Byron Woolies site, next to the Mercato shopping centre on Jonson Street.

But if you want to have your say on DA 10.2018.650.1, you better get in quick – you must register with the NSW Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) before 4pm on September 14.

The panel will hear public submissions and determine the development on September 16 from 5pm.

Owing to COVID-19, the meeting will be held by teleconference.   

To register, call 02 8217 2060 or email [email protected].

The unelected NRPP is tasked by the NSW government to determine large developments instead of elected councillors. Capital investment value of the development exceeds the $30 million threshold, and is $39,897,000.

Called Essence of Byron Hotel, the proposal is by Mercato’s developer, wealthy Gold Coast based businessman Robert Badalotti.

Leading up to the approval of Mercato’s development, Greens Mayor Simon Richardson lavished praise on Mr Badalotti, including supporting the developer’s wish to fast-track Mercato’s completion.

While that development attracted a lot of public criticism for it being out of character and too big for Byron, it was awarded Green Building Council Australia Five Star Green Star Retail Centre Design v1 2018.

At the May 2019 Council meeting, the mayor defended his private negotiations with the developer for the outcome. It emerged that only planning staff were present. The mayor defended the developer, by saying he had agreed to prohibit fast food multinationals in Mercato.

See the report here

This week the mayor defended Council’s inability to control large developments for Byron’s CBD on social media.

Adrian Nelson said on Facebook, Mercato is a shocker. Set the precedent for developers to now push the height controls’.

The mayor replied, ‘No it didn’t Adrian – it had the middle 10 per cent of the roof 10 per cent above in order to allow for natural ventilation. There are plenty of buildings in Byron already above height, and plenty before Mercato. Some developers may claim precedent, but that doesn’t make it so’.

So what’s proposed for Essence of Byron Hotel?

The large tourist and visitor accommodation building is 4,194m2 in size and would contain 146 rooms, function centre and retail premises (shops and food and drink premises).

According to the Council staff report, ‘The basement will connect to the existing basement carpark of the adjoining Mercato on Byron shopping complex’.

Rooms range in size from 25m2 to 45m2, with eight ‘dual-key rooms’.

The roof proposes ‘landscaped recreation/ function space containing a pool and adjacent deck and bar. Solar panels are proposed on the non-use roof areas’.

Development approval for that complex included a condition requiring road upgrade works in the adjacent Jonson Street. Those conditions have been challenged by the proponent of that development, resulting in Land & Environment Court proceedings’.

From the public submissions received, Council staff say all 423 are all opposed the proposed development

What does the Council staff report say?

Council’s major project planner Rob van Iersel recommend refusal, and says that ‘significant non-compliances with the planning controls remain’.

Predictably, height and floor space ratio variations (extensions beyond existing standards) are requested to maximise profits, with a request to vary clause 4.6 Variation to Floor Space Ratio and Height Controls.

The staff report claims the proponent is seeking a massive 41.5 per cent increase in Floor Space Ratio (FSR) and a height in places of 14.05m where the limit is set at 11.5m.

Refusal is based upon inconstancies with the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). They are Clause 7 of SEPP No. 44 Koala Habitat Protection, Clause 7 of SEPP No. 55 Remediation of Land, Clauses 10-15 SEPP (Coastal Management) 2018, Clauses 86, 101 & 104 SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007, Clause 2.3 Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 – Zone objectives and land use table, Clause 4.6 Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 – Exceptions to development standards, Clause 6.2 Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 – Earthworks and Clause 6.6 Byron Local Environmental Plan 2014 – Essential Services.

Key issues

A ‘key issue’, according to the staff report, is building height and floor space ratio.

Regarding the building height, the report reads, ‘While the majority of the building complies with the development standard, there are some roof-top elements that exceed the 11.5m maximum, with the maximum height being 14.05m’.

The rooftop elements that exceed 11.5m are set well back on the building, such they would not be visible from either side of Jonson Street immediately in front of the building.

These elements are set toward the southern edge of the rooftop. It is unlikely, therefore, that they would be visible when viewed from the north or north-east. The position of the Mercato on Byron development to the south means that they are also unlikely to be visible from the south-east.

‘It is considered that the exceedance of the maximum building height standard does not offend the public interest, as it is consistent with the objectives of the standard and the objectives for development within the zone in which the development is proposed to be carried out’.

Regarding the floor space ratio exceedance, the report reads, ‘This significant exceedance [at 41.5 per cent] results in a building of a scale that is inconsistent with the existing and desired future character of the Byron Bay Town Centre’.

Staff report conclusion

In conclusion, the staff report says, ‘The proposed development is not consistent with development standards within Byron Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2014, specifically maximum building height and maximum floor space ratio’.

‘The result is a proposed building that would be inconsistent with the scale and character of existing development in the town centre and inconsistent with the desired future character.

‘Design of the building creates a number of significant access and movement issues, with potential pedestrian and vehicle conflicts and potential for queuing onto Jonson Street in peak times.

‘The proposed development is inconsistent with a number of provisions of Byron Development Control Plan (DCP) 2014, notable in relation to parking and access, and is not considered to be in the public interest’.

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  1. The old Woolies site stands there like a festering carbuncle much as it did when it was trading. I support a hotel there, on the grounds that it couldn’t possibly be worse than the heap of rubble already there.

    Byron Bay looks more third world by the day, with its awful graffiti, neglect of the public parks, gardens and grass verges, wild campers, “homeless” people camping in the woods or on the beach and of course the mandatory barefoot, bare-chested brigade padding through town thinking they look, er, like, um, so cool, not to mention the attire of schoolie girls in summer strutting their stuff in string bikinis. Why?

    Young people don’t run around half-dressed in Europe or the US unless they are on the beach, so why do it here?

    Maybe a nice expensive boutique hotel will raise the declining standards in town. However, do make sure they don’t use the same architect who designed Mercato which has too many flaws to mention, but the worst is the so-called “fire escape” next to the staircase down from the Palace, which leads to an ugly aperture at street level full of heavy-duty fire fighting paraphernalia. The only problem is that this 2×3 m2 space is used as a pissoir.

    Doesn’t anyone in this town have a clue about aesthetics, design and making Byron Bay beautiful? Yes, bring on a lovely hotel, otherwise, I’m sure the site will end up derelict or as a skate park, Micky Mouse theme park, bowling ally, another kids night club, or maybe a massive drive-in Macdonalds? Give me strength.

  2. Here we go again.
    This is not sustainable growth.
    What is the plan to manage the extra traffic and other infrastructure?
    Are we going to see Jonson St become a pedestrian mall?
    Presumably guests will walk to main beach, so should we have a better pedestrian management plan I.e, traffic lights?
    Let’s hear it team.

  3. We don’t want big hotels in our beautiful coastal town, we don’t want gentrification to become like any other tourist town….if you want a big hotel go to the Gold Coast….is Vivienne Swann for real???? Sounds like a Mandy Nolan piss-take of the new breed of Byronite!! My jaw dropped reading her comment…….what have we become????? We want something new and innovative and environmentally and socially sustainable not another bloody hotel.

  4. How depressing. Byron lost its magic to development and chain stores a long time ago. Just another step towards homogenisation and commercial uniformity. Too late now, it’s gone so far. Yes add some more tasteless flash.

  5. Suggest you click on the link for the green 5 star rating = a total joke. The building scored 65/ 100, with an energy score of 11/27 – this is known as a fail where I come from. As for keeping the multinationals out – that is becoming a tired old argument. I don’t want to see a Maccas or kfc in Byron, but there’s dominos pizza and subway and other global franchises – this battle was lost long ago. Essentially this building will be a total eyesore ( like it’s predecessor) with token green ratings and more of the Gold Coast effect. Byron really is a weird mix these days – an international tourist place with high end living, but filthy streets and footpaths with a very tired vibe.

  6. A proposal to reclassify State Rail land as Crown Land is lurking around State Parliament. No doubt various parties are nodding, winking & dreaming about a fire sale of this land. I notice the old Woolies site borders on this land. Once any of the rail corridor is lost that’s it for future return of rail. Of course maybe this has nothing to do with the re-development.

  7. It’s totally insane, and done through our council.
    Who is running the council really.
    Only the most compromised ever make it to power.
    Nimbin said it right ” The Law is The Crime “.

  8. The reason Byron Bay is presently loved by so many is because it is different. It is unique. It is special.
    Residents and visitors see this and feel it and love it! Do we really want to change this appeal by approving over sized developments as is common in the Gold Coast or other built-up towns?
    Can’t we be strong and keep to what already works for us and preserve the unique character of Byron which has become so valuable?? Byron has already submitted to enough greed and disrespect. For what!. Our loss and a few more developers gain? That is simply crazy!. Any town can submit to that in the name of “progress”… but why Byron, when we already have so much to be proud of?
    Presently, Byron is limited relatively wisely by its size and infrastructure. This is its attraction. It does not have “out of proportion” large hotels in town. It has acceptable small ones or conversely, hotels out of town. It does not have tall buildings; it has a considerate height limit. It does not have pool parties on roofs. It has relative peace and quiet. It does not have department stores…. apart from the architecturally out-of-place Mecato building. It does not have traffic lights, it has roundabouts. Etc..
    This is OUR identity, OUR blessing, OUR difference. OUR opportunity is to be “Simply Byron Bay” ……that wonderful seaside, surfing town with geographical wonders and a funky interesting difference to other towns. What is wrong with that!
    Can’t we think a little outside the box? In OUR case, Council has allowed itself to have developers who cannot restrain from pushing the boundaries to be a part of something that is unique and then ruining it. Just the name Byron Bay means money. Like the Golden Goose, Byron could be improved upon to reflect its present much-loved character Instead of building a massive intrusive hotel.
    Why can’t we consider a space with village appeal which demonstrates Byron’s attraction and difference.

    Berenice Lancaster.

  9. Does anyone remember that the old Woolies site was a sand mine site where radioactive materials were collected. That at least needs to be considered. It was a heavy black sand. I remember. it.

  10. When a mayor lavishes praise on a developer and fulfils the developer’s wish to fast-track a project we are really in trouble. It’s on par with handing over Scarrabelotti’s lookout to a restaurant development. Shame on you council, Byron really does deserve better!


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