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Byron Shire
January 24, 2022

Council is killing heritage

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June Grant, Mullumbimby

I am inspired by your article of last week (27 January) to write, with a scintilla of irrepressible hope, about the failure of this Council and its planning department to adequately ensure the standard of the built environment of Mullumbimby in general and, most specifically, the protection of the Mullumbimby Heritage Conservation Area (MHCA).

In reference to the former I suggest interested persons take a stroll down the back lanes of East Mullumbimby and see some of the back block buildings that have been allowed to be built there. The community Heritage Panel meetings are now held only three times a year and community input is becoming less and less effective as, for whatever reason, the system is set up to enable members to be informed of impending DAs (development applications) in the MHCA is failing.

Some DAs have been approved without members being notified of them. One of these is the importation of a ‘Queenslander’ which has been allowed to be raised to maximum height, higher than any of the buildings in the section of Stuart St between Fern and Myokum Street (near the Museum). The address is stated as 11 Fern Street.Homes built in Queensland have zilch place in the MHCA.

Another DA, at the back of a Station Street property, circumvented any scrutiny by simply not declaring it was in the MHCA. Surely all planners should be vigilant enough to check the vicinity of all the properties they are assessing to check that they are not within the MHCA.

Finally, we have another version of potential MHCA degradation with the presentation of DA 10.2020.647.1 at 144 Stuart Street. The Owner/Applicant is a Byron Shire planner. I am informed that its assessment is being outsourced to an ‘independent assessor’, that person being Mike Svikis, a planning consultant in Ocean Shores. I wonder if he has any expertise regarding heritage properties? This DA should be allowed to be discussed at the next Heritage Panel meeting (I am not a member) in March.

The DA is for demolition of the existing simple yet elegant brick house (approx 60 years old) and to import yet another ‘Queenslander’. Apparently this house is built over three titles and from a brief perusal of the DA the ‘Queenslander’ proposed is either small, or is to be placed side on. It is probably safe to assume there are more buildings to come, which begs questions about the incompleteness of the DA. Is this piecemeal approach considered appropriate?

The brick buildings in the MHCA are part of our Mullumbimby story. It won’t be long before they reach a venerable age. Demolition in a conservation area is legislated as the very last option. DAs such as this make it the very easy first option.

The bringing in of another State’s heritage to plant in a conservation area (its removal is considered to be demolition in heritage terms) at best shows ignorance, or disregard, for the primacy of authenticity, and in a less flattering light could be regarded as the theft of another town/city’s heritage.

This DA was lodged over the holidays. Its exhibition period ended in January. However, I’m sure prompt late submissions will be taken into account.


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