Villa World’s West Byron development is back, and until September 30 you can make a submission to Byron Council. It’s been badged as the Harvest Estate.
It will then be up to the court to decide whether to approve it. This may be your last chance to have a say on one of the two West Byron DAs. The other is owned by ‘locals’, Site R&D.
A lot has happened in the West Byron saga since Villa World’s Development Application (DA) was rejected by the Northern Regional Planning Panel on April 8, 2019.
First, the landowner, Tower Holdings, had to repay Villa World Ltd their $10 million deposit for an interest in the development, as it was dependent upon a successful DA.
Then Tower Holdings purchased the subsidiary Villa World Byron Pty Ltd so that they could appeal the rejection in the Land and Environment Court.
In August, there was a court conciliation conference on the original DA, to which seven community members were allowed to submit short written statements.
Now, Villa World Byron have submitted a revised DA to the court, which is on public exhibition until Wednesday September 30.
There will be no extensions, and the court will determine the DA.
By halving the size of their development, setting their development back 30m from Ewingsdale Road, excluding the habitat of the wallum froglets and removing development from the eastern koala area, Villa World have made a genuine attempt to address many of the community concerns.
However, they can’t overcome the problems of increasing congestion on Ewingsdale Road, further stressing an already degraded estuary, and the vulnerability of the site to rising seas owing to climate heating.
Villa World Byron have reduced the number of residential lots from 281 down to 145, with an additional 4 dwellings on large residual land parcels. Many of the original lots were intended for further subdivision and dual occupancies, giving an overall reduction in the maximum potential yield from 420 down to 179 primary dwellings.
Under both scenarios, all lots are allowed to have secondary dwellings, significantly increasing the potential totals.
To ensure that there is no further development on the residual land parcels, Villa World have agreed to include perpetual legal restrictions over their use, and to work with Council to rezone them to a rural/environmental zone, though this needs an unequivocal commitment.
This time, they applied RTA guidelines to identify the traffic generation for 149 dwellings as 1,490 additional vehicle movements per day (vpd) on Ewingsdale Road, though with allowances for dual occupancies and secondary dwellings, over 2,000 extra vpd could be expected.
This is relative to an existing traffic volume of some 21,000 vpd, which will also be increased by the adjacent Site R&D development.
After vainly battling the Department of Planning and Byron Council, for years, to get a setback from Ewingsdale Road for aesthetic reasons, Villa World’s replacement of the concrete wall with a landscaped 30m setback is welcomed.
Villa World’s abandonment of the eastern part of their development is good for this vital koala corridor (and bushfire safety), though this would be enhanced if revegetation was targeted around the core koala habitat in this vicinity (mostly on Site R&D land).
The removal of development from the western drainage line and wetland home of the vulnerable wallum sedgefrog is a relief, as the previous intent was to bury these under up to 3m of fill and houses.
Bigger buffers needed
However, there needs to be a bigger buffer to the wetland, and improvements to the drainage system, to increase their chances of surviving this DA.
Flood impacts still rely on Council’s fundamentally flawed and inaccurate 2015 study. Most significantly, that study only considers a maximum sea level rise of 0.8m by the end of this century, with the real risk of a 1–2m rise ignored.
While there is reduced development of floodprone land, there has been an unexplained increase in the depth of fill by over a metre in places, resulting in an increase in imported fill from 186,040m3 to 215,000m3.
An additional 2,900 truck loads is not trivial.
With secondary dwellings, this development can be expected to house over 500 people, consuming over 35 megalitres of water from Rocky Creek Dam each year.
What isn’t evaporated ends up in coastal wetlands and the Cape Byron Marine Park as overland flow, groundwater seepage or discharge from the sewerage treatment plant, along with a large variety of added pollutants.
The drainage of acid sulfate soils and polluted groundwater will add sulphuric acid and a cocktail of iron, aluminium and heavy metals to the mix.
While we know the Belongil estuary is already badly polluted and in dire need of remediation, there has still been no attempt to assess the health of its waters and biota.
This is essential to identifying the additional impact of this development on an already severely stressed system.
The intent to undertake limited monitoring after it is developed is too little, too late.
The adjoining Site R&D DA is listed for a court hearing between November 9 and 13, 2020, though now that Villa World have abandoned the western roads that Site R&D depended upon, they will need to change their DA again.
Holistic assessments accounting for the impacts of both developments on traffic and the estuary are still needed.
Byron Resident’s Group statement
Meanwhile, The Byron Resident’s Group (BRG) are calling on the public to make their voice heard by Wednesday September 30.
They said in a press release that urgent action is needed:
- The Villa World Development Application (DA) was refused by the Northern Regional Planning Panel in April 2019.
- It has ended up in the Land and Environment Court and is out of the hands of Council to decide.
- Villa World Byron submitted a revised and completely new DA to the court in August, which was put on exhibition for only 3 weeks.
- Submissions close next Wednesday 30 September.
- We have only days left to respond to this completely new DA (link to the 93 documents here)
- The court will determine the DA, not Council, so there will be no public meetings, no chance to speak and no opportunity to change the outcome.
- Any issues we have with this new development must be brought to the court’s attention now via our submissions.
- You should mention in your submission that being given three weeks to consider 93 documents – including stormwater, flooding and sewage studies — for a development that will have profound impacts on Byron Bay is grossly unfair and denies the community genuine participation in the planning process.
• Belongil And Cape Byron Marine Park – water flowing through the already polluted site combined with increased urban and acid-sulfate run off plus the additional load of sewerage effluent will put more strain on the already degraded Belongil Creek – a breeding ground for fish – and flow to into our precious Bay, part of Cape Byron Marine Park.
• Flood impacts – the DA relies on Council’s 2015 flood study, which only considers a maximum sea-level rise of 0.8 m by the end of this century when a 1-2m rise is more likely. Is it appropriate to fill and build on a flood plain when the resulting houses are vulnerable to future risk?
• No masterplan or co-ordination of the whole West Byron urban release area – the two landowner groups, Site R&D and Villa World Byron Bay, are not working in co-ordination. There is no connectivity across the site and the cumulative impacts cannot be assessed.
• Traffic – increasing congestion by adding 2800+ extra car movements per day onto a roundabout and then onto Ewingsdale Road.
If you want to look at all the documents in the da click here (Beware – it’s 817Mbs)