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February 26, 2021

What can we expect from the West Byron development?

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The judge’s gavel has fallen on one of the two DAs for a major housing development at West Byron, setting in stone the proposal from Tower Holdings to create 149 housing lots on the much fought-over site.

Some locals will be gnashing their teeth, others celebrating, while a fair few in the middle will be quietly acknowledging that things could have been a lot worse.

Map of revised Villa World DA. Map by Dailan Pugh

But what are we actually going to get at West Byron?

First, the good news.

The plan for 149 lots is half of what Terry Agnew’s Tower Holdings (operating under the name Villaworld for the purposes of the recent court case) had asked for, and it is significantly less than the company’s original projections about the ‘maximum developable potential of the land’.  

Given the relatively small size of the housing lots, it is unlikely that the future owners will be able to build dual occupancies, even if they wanted to. However, it won’t stop them building smaller secondary dwellings that could then become holiday rentals.

Byron Council’s attempt to significantly limit short-term holiday rentals in all new development in the Shire was not well received by the NSW Department of Planning, and the location of the site makes it prime territory for Airbnb accomodation.

But back to the good news. Sort of. Fewer houses mean fewer people and fewer extra cars on Ewingsdale Road – a key concern for many locals. However, the bad news is, using the general rule of thumb that a house generates 10 traffic movements each day on average, the Tower Holdings/Terry Agnew development will produce an extra 1,490 traffic movements each day on Ewingsdale Road. 

Aside from the Byron bypass, no major changes to the already

choked thoroughfare have been proposed to accommodate these extra movements.

Mayor Simon Richardson described the result as a ‘sad day for the Byron community’ but said that the ‘days following will be days of opportunity’.

‘After the decision to rezone the land a few years ago for residential development, houses were always going to be built’, he said.

Mayor says better deal was negotiated 

Acclaimed Northern Rivers environmentalist Dailan Pugh. Photo Tree Faerie.

‘However, already, owing in no small part to the work of deputy mayor Michael Lyon, Byron Resident Groups’ Dailan Pugh and Cate Coorey, and myself and others in Council, we have negotiated a way better DA than was originally proposed’.

Among the other key conditions imposed as part of the judgment by Commissioner Michael Chilcott that could be considered good news, are ongoing environmental management and protection works, extensive remediation to address lead contamination on seven lots, and a requirement that the development be built in stages with inspections at the end of each stage to ensure compliance.

‘It’s still going to have a huge impact,’ said Dailan Pugh, one of the key campaigners against the development of West Byron.

‘But it certainly could have been worse.’   

At least, while we’re all sitting in traffic on Ewingsdale Road, we won’t be forced to stare at a giant concrete wall built on top of a mound of fill.

The plan to locate a concrete buffer in the road reserve was abandoned by Tower Holdings, in favour of a less intrusive noise buffer set 30 metres back. It will significantly change the appearance of the site but less than the previous proposal.

Further concessions have also been made to reduce the impact on the local koala population, the wallum froglet (Crinia tinnula) and the wallum sedge-frog (Litoria olongburensis), the latter two of which are listed as vulnerable species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

‘They are actually planning to save the sedge frog,’ said Byron councillor Cate Coorey, who has also been a key campaigner against West Byron. ‘These things are hard to predict, whether they will survive. Any development on any land has an impact and the Belongil Estuary is definitely going to be significantly and negatively affected. But it’s a lot better than what we could have had.’

No cats, dogs

There is also a prohibition on having cats and dogs in any of the residential dwellings on the site, though previous experience at Lilli Pilli in Byron suggests this rule will be virtually impossible to enforce.

The less-good news is that the West Byron development story is still only half written.

Sitting not-so-quietly in the wings is the second major development proposal for the site, that put forward by a group of local landowners known as SiteR&D.

Unlike Tower Holdings, SiteR&D has so far refused to meet with members of the Byron Residents Group, and has made fewer concessions regarding their housing plans.

Their case is also before the Land and Environment Court. However, according to Mr Pugh, the changes agreed to by Villaworld will force SiteR&D to significantly amend some of the most destructive elements of its proposal. 

‘ …the western part of the [SiteR&D] DA involves a road being built from Ewingsdale Road to the development,’ Mr Pugh said. 

‘That road goes right through the sedge frog wetland. But now Villaworld plans to protect that wetland, so they can’t build that road in. They’re going to have to redesign that part [of the development] completely…’

SiteR&D is also likely to have to amend its plan to build a concrete buffer wall next to Ewingsdale Road, because Villaworld has elected to do so. However, a number of key aspects, such as the number of houses to be built, remain of major concern to residents.

The matter will return to court in June or July next year. The judgment is at www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/1762b8be751e06920efd1b9e.

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  1. Byron a beautiful place, I’ll move there and after few years claim to be a local and say, “well I’m in” and “no one new can come and share the place with me”. There’s demand for housing up and down rhe coast and Byron needs to carry it’s share of the load.

    • Missing the point Dennis…more houses needs greater infrastructure. This is yet to happen, so roads get grid locked, can’t get to beaches or shops and the only ones smiling are the publicans.

  2. Council’s paradoxical position is conflicted. They rezoned the land to Residential – “there was always going to be housing development”
    Rates are their main source of income.
    The more dwellings, the more Rates they levy…
    Then the try to negotiate a “better DA”
    It hurts your head to think about it


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