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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

Unanswered questions, poor process surrounds contentious DA

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Council planner, Chris Larkin, is yet to reply to whether he will assess ‘assertions’ made by Greens mayoral hopeful and water engineer, Duncan Dey, regarding the lack of legal road access for an advertised DA in Coopers Lane West in Main Arm.

The Echo asked Council staff, ‘Given Mr Dey’s claim (supported by a letter to Council some months ago) that there is no evidence of a right of carriageway to the property, will Mr Larkin be now ‘exploring’ whether legal access exists or not?’

‘And if no evidence of legal access is found to be correct, will the DA be refused?’

There are ongoing disputes between residents around the right of carriageway, along with doubt over whether the access track can ever comply with bushfire regulations.

In April 2020, councillors contentiously approved a secondary dwelling DA on the lot adjoining the current DA in Coopers Lane West. 

A deferred commencement depends on rectifying access on a long, steep and winding road on adjacent private land, which passes Mr Dey’s home.

The owners of that land say they don’t want a ‘superhighway to a thriving suburb through their farm’.

Incomplete DAs put before public by staff

The issue raises the question of DA procedures, whereby staff publicly exhibit DAs that are incomplete, contain errors or are non-compliant. 

RFS guidelines (Planning for Bushfire Protection) say legal compliant access must exist before the DA is lodged.

Duncan Dey said, ‘By exhibiting DAs as lodged (prior to staff scrutinising them), the public are prevented from viewing the proposal that will eventually be assessed by staff, after they’ve negotiated with the proponent’.

‘Perhaps it’s corporate laziness: the public do the first round of scrutinising (it’s cheap labour). Or it could be worse: if there are no objections, there is no scrutiny. When a DA is lodged with errors, objectors should have a second round of viewing.

‘In the case of DA 496, key issues weren’t even raised: legal access wasn’t presented; physical access is too steep for bushfire protection.

‘I can raise these issues in a submission, but I’ll never know how they were handled.’

Staff replied, ‘Development applications are assessed and determined in accordance with relevant legislation, the principle of which is the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979’.

‘Council’s Code of Conduct specifically provides that staff must take all relevant facts known, or that they should be reasonably aware of, into consideration and have regard to the merits of each case.

‘It is not therefore possible to comment on a particular application.

‘Council staff are bound by the provisions of Council’s Code of Conduct.

‘The Code of Conduct provides that Council staff must act lawfully and honestly.

For information relating to the exhibition of development applications go to Byron Shire Council’s website

Information about NSW DA requirements can be found at Planning NSW.

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