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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Editorial – Ewingsdale development creep rejected by residents

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We love to receive letters, but not every letter will be published; the publication of letters is at the discretion of the online and print letters editors.

The Higgins Homestead in Ewingsdale, at the Gateway to Byron Bay. Photo Jeff Dawson

Hans Lovejoy, editor

A petition of 294 signatures against rezoning Ewingsdale farmland to commercial use will be presented to councillors for their upcoming Thursday meeting.

If successful, it would prevent a proposal next to the Byron Central Hospital for an over 55s retirement village, or aged care facility called Ingenia Lifestyle.

Its developers have flagged their intention to build on surrounding farmland after similar attempts by the Belbecks some years ago. At that time, residents were successful in scaring off the developers.

Yet despite the current opposition by residents, the ‘Greens’ Council majority appears to have given passage for such developments via its recently adopted Business and Industrial Lands Strategy 2020 (BILS).

It’s a policy that attracted criticism from the community as well as those vying to become Greens councillors at the upcoming September election. It is one of the many issues that has divided the local party under outgoing Mayor, Simon Richardson.

Shannon Burt, Director Sustainable Environment and Economy raised the BILS issue in this week’s Council agenda.

In part, she wrote, ‘Any development proposal in proximity to the hospital will be assessed against its consistency with the function of the hospital, its ability to value add to existing community and economic benefits of the hospital and its commercial viability’.

Guess what – that includes an over 55s retirement village or aged care facility.

The question is, can Council, as a legislative branch of the state government, do anything to prevent such developments?

(The answer is yes, but they don’t want to).

And is stopping such developments what the majority of the residents want? 

Councillors would argue that such a facility would be welcomed by the wider community.

And besides, it appears reasonable to expand an already established area for such use.

Never mind that development creep was not considered when the hospital was built. 

Another question is: Should Council make it hard for developers to be successful with large-scale DAs like this?

With wealth comes the ability to endlessly pursue inappropriate developments, so putting up some resistance, even tokenistic, would seem reasonable to achieve the best outcome for those affected.

Yet as recent court losses indicate, Council doesn’t appear to be bothered with that charade.

For years, Council’s planning and legal direction appears to have been led by unelected bureaucrats, and as a result, the community’s interests are not served particularly well.

With a rapid influx of wealthy people, many of whom are keen to cash in on Byron, the job of defending against inappropriate developments becomes harder.

Perhaps with this rapid influx of a wealthy population, there will be some with experience in local government and planning?

It helps to be wealthy, as the pay is peanuts.

Elections are looming this September!

News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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