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Byron Shire
October 25, 2021

How do we protect the heritage of a rapidly gentrifying tourist town?

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Should future development in Brunswick Heads fit in with the aesthetic of a 1950s holiday village, or do we have to accept that modern architecture, in both style and scale, will inevitably be part of the Shire’s oldest town?

This was a key element of the debate at last week’s Byron Council planning meeting, as councillors considered making parts of Brunswick Heads into heritage conservation areas.

An artist’s rendering of The Kollective development proposed for Brunswick Heads. www.thecorsobrunswick.net.au

While plans were already afoot for the town to be given a heritage designation in Byron’s key planning documents, independent Councillor Cate Coorey moved that the process be fast-tracked.

‘Brunswick Heads was included in the community-based heritage study that led to Mullumbimby, Bangalow and some areas of Byron Bay being incorporated into the DCP and LEP in 2014 as heritage conservation areas,’ Cr Coorey said.

‘However, Brunswick Heads was not included, despite its historical significance, and the fact that the 45 individual properties were recommended in the study for heritage protection.’

Representing the Brunswick Heads Progress Association during public access, Matthew O’Reilly summed up the association’s desire to retain the town’s old world charms.

‘The benefit for Brunswick Heads is that we can get architecture that fits in with the holiday village, fishing village aesthetic of the town, rather than the cubist, modern buildings that don’t fit in with what Brunswick Heads wants.’

Manor houses 

‘The other benefit is that complying development under the medium density SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) – that’s manor houses and terraces – would have to have a DA.

‘We just hope that Council can support this and get back to us with a clear timeline.’

But Mayor Simon Richardson and three other councillors opposed the attempt to fast-track the process, with Cr Richardson speaking against the proposition that Brunswick Heads was ‘nothing more than a town of surf shacks and should remain that way’.

‘It worries me when I hear “Bruns is full of 50s surf shacks and we don’t want cubist buildings”,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘I’ve lived in Bruns in quite a few houses, and never lived in a surf shack.

‘This comment of “This is Bruns, and we don’t want something else” really worries me, especially when it comes without expertise.

‘We’ve even heard that we’re worried about development, therefore we want this, rather than we’re seeing heritage and we want to protect it’.

In the end, a significantly modified version of Cr Coorey’s motion was passed by councillors that deviated little from the existing plan to include parts of Brunswick Heads within the heritage schedule of local planning laws.

The main difference was a requirement that the community consultation work in relation to this inclusion is to be completed by August this year.

Councillors also voted to consider allocating money to the project at its next budget review.

Cr Richardson, along with councillors Michael Lyon, Paul Spooner and Alan Hunter voted against the proposal.

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  1. I think development can be done sympathetically and in the style of any existing town and don’t see the point in changing it into just another hideous quick build style. Cairns and Port Douglas are great examples of architecture that keeps the feel of a place. In Byron, a building like the Balcony is also a great example of seaside style but Mercato Shopping Centre and the hideous Backpacker tower where Aldi is, are examples of shit designs truly unsuited to this town.
    Brunswick Heads needs a little fresh ion but a facelift , not a complete face transplant.
    A traditional fisherman’s wharf addition , replete with restaurants, at the old co-op site would be a great start.

  2. Taste in Architecture is very individual .
    However, I have heard many local friends say that some of the modern architecture seen in Brunswick Heads seems imposing dominating, over the general feel of the little town.
    The Kollective is a development which caters not for ‘low to income earners’, (low income includes the people that are serving your coffees and caring for the elderly) but seems to infer that is the case.
    Another look at DCP incorporation may be advisable.

  3. Like it or not, The Corso development pictured is proposed for Bayside Brunswick, not the older part of town. Although Matthew O’Reilly says Brunswick has a ‘ holiday village, fishing village aesthetic’, surely that’s just certain parts of it – Bayside for example is a modern housing development, and the existing buildings are mostly single storey brick. The buildings being constructed right now in the newly released part of Bayside don’t look like 1950s fishing shacks.


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