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Byron Shire
April 21, 2024

Are Council’s planning policies failing the community?

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Hans Lovejoy

As developers eagerly continue to monetise Byron Shire’s property market, the flip side of course is the cost to the community and the region’s unique biodiversity.

Yet despite those pressures, Greens Mayor Simon Richardson is yet to reply to questions around his commitment to protecting both the environment and amenity of residents.

Mute mayor: questions around Council’s commitment to protecting the community from inappropriate development remain unanswered by Mayor Simon Richardson. Photo David Hancock.

Last week, The Echo reported on yet another loss by Byron Shire Council in the NSW Land & Environment court, something which the mayor once boasted was a rare event.

An entire neighbourhood objected to the consolidation of three large lots in Ocean Shores, where eight dwellings at the bottom of a steep, boggy, forested hill were proposed.

The DA by developer Callum Sked was botched from the start, by both the developer and staff, with missing and incorrect reports.

This was all reported previously by The Echo, along with the problematic drainage and earthworks, and potential for land slippages.

Fumbling lawyers

And when it came to the court case, Council’s consultant lawyers appeared to fumble their way through, and then lost.

As with other court cases run by Council’s consultant lawyers, residents were left in the dark, and it appeared their wishes were ignored.

CABS president, Matthew O’Reilly, is critical of Council’s planning policies and says his suggestions have so far been ignored. Mr O’Reilly plans to run for Council this September. Photo supplied.

Community Alliance for Byron Shire Association (CABS) president, Matthew O’Reilly, is critical of Council’s planning polices.

He has been a keen Council watcher for many years, and plans to run at the September Council elections as a Greens member.

He told The Echo of the court loss, ‘This is another example where it is the Byron LEP 2014 and the Byron DCP 2014 which have failed the community’. 

‘The 2014 LEP which was adopted under Sol Ibrahim, Rose Wanchap and Simon Richardson is a pro development LEP and moved significantly away from the precedents of the older 1988 LEP, developed by Greens councillors and Mayor Jan Barham over 20 years.

‘The LEP’s allowance of overdevelopment has not been meeting community expectations for the six years it has been operating, and more and more multi-dwelling developments are being proposed and approved against the community’s wishes.

‘The newly endorsed Byron Residential Strategy will only reinforce this trend. 

‘I quote from the proponents town planner in the L&EC proceedings: “That density is also significantly compatible with the density envisaged in the areas under the LEP, which provide for a minimum block size of 600 square metres”.

‘[The town planner] said there is a distinct movement in the Ocean Shores area that is seeing increased infill development of the larger lots, and that trend is resulting in a significant number of dual occupancy and medium density housing developments being constructed in the area.

‘With every new multi-dwelling development throughout Byron Shire, multi-dwelling development becomes more and more a compatible form of development.

‘What has been needed for some time is amendments to the Byron LEP 2014 that bring it back in line with community expectations.

LEP allows poor development

‘Council will never win these court cases if our main planning documents fundamentally allows them [these developments] to occur.

‘What is needed is for Byron Council and the Community to determine “precincts” where multi-dwelling housing should be permitted to occur. Ideally this should be near shopping centres and public transport hubs.

‘Once this is determined, the LEP should be amended to rezone these precincts” to R1 General Residential Zoning. The remainder of the Shire’s residential zones are predominately R2 low density residential, and the LEP should be further amended to remove multi-dwelling housing” as a permitted use in the R2 zone.

‘The recently endorsed Byron Residential Strategy permits this LEP amendment and rezoning.

‘The only way to protect the community from overdevelopment and meet community expectations is to remove multi-dwelling housing from occurring everywhere in the residential zones across Byron Shire and instead only specifically allowing it in designated precincts’.

Mr O’Reilly says, ‘Multi-dwelling housing that has already been approved would, of course, be protected by existing use rights.

‘These LEP changes would have the double benefit of prohibiting most of the current Koho/Kollective multi-dwelling housing developments under the Affordable Housing SEPP, unless they were proposed in the identified precincts.

‘I have been putting forward the above LEP changes for 18 months but no current Councillors have endeavoured to take them forward’.

Mr O’Reilly adds, ‘I am hopeful a future Council will consider things differently than the current overdevelopment-supporting Council’.

Meanwhile, Cr Richardson indicated last year he will not run again for local politics.

Former Greens councillor and hydrologist, Duncan Dey, has also expressed dismay at the direction Council have taken with planning. Mr Dey plans to run for Council this September as Greens Mayor. Photo supplied.

The Echo understands he no longer attends the monthly Greens meetings, and The Echo has previously reported that the internal politics of the Byron Greens have been in turmoil for some years under Cr Richardson’s leadership.

Like Mr O’Reilly, Duncan Dey will be running for Council in September and was endorsed by the Byron Greens members as their mayoral candidate.

Unanswered questions

The Echo asked Mayor Richardson:

‘Will you be seeking to improve planning policies in light of this court decision?

‘Do you agree precincts should be established, as per Mr O’Reilly’s suggestion, ‘where mulit-dwelling housing should be permitted to occur?  Mr O’Reilly says his suggestions have so far been ignored by councillors. Why is that?’

Further questions around how Council staff and their consultants ran the court case were put to staff, and their reply will be published once it is received.

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  1. I regard myself as very green,but I think the Greens make a big mistake when it comes to density of housing! A big problem is low density as it creates endless urban sprawl and makes housing even more unaffordable!The outrageous cost of housing could quite easily and far more environmentally friendly resolved by changing rural zoning!Instead of having the stupid rule of one house only even if you’re on20,30,40 acres it would be far more sensible to allow let’s say clusters of houses close together,like a tiny village with only one driveway to it,rather than killing off productive land with costly endless driveways!This would result in a much more affordable way of housing and socially cohesive,not isolated community,it’s a nobrainer! Encourage multiple occupancies,that way you reduce the environmental impact greatly! Do not allow any infill for housing,there’s more than enough land around without needing any fill at all,the price of housing could be a fraction of what it is now with very simple changes,and with much more open spaces for people to enjoy!Height restrictions are a problem as well as it simply means that you need ever more land to build on! I am a strong supporter of the Greens,but many think low density is green,I question this as it usually means lots of lawns in spread out suburbia,which is hardly environmentally and socially friendly…thik about it!


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