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Byron Shire
October 23, 2021

Rail destruction

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Paul Jones, architect, Byron Bay

There appears to be some confusion regarding the purpose and methods of heritage conservation in our built environment, particularly in relation to the new Byron Bay Transport Interchange or bus station.

The interchange has been constructed over the State listed heritage rail yard that comprised 19th century steam era station buildings, water tower, and archaeological artefacts, including locomotive turn table and coal hoppers. This area of built heritage was quite unique – not only to our region but also within the state of NSW. The heritage listing was intended to preserve the place for the benefit of future generations so that they might sense the ghosts of the past and be enriched in the wonder, achievements, and lessons of past generations.

The new construction within this site is insensitive and out of character and scale, not only with the past steam era heritage but also with our village and town of Byron Bay. What has occurred amounts to an obliteration of a heritage place, crisscrossed with roads, pavement, planting and awing structures, light poles, signage and detritus of destroyed heritage artifacts.

The construction turns its back on the old railway station and posits a restored water tower as a dismembered curiosity amongst a cacophony of ‘stuff’. The site is a constrained appendix off the new bypass reminiscent of a city scale interchange with arbitrary iconic design treatment unrelated to anything in Byron Bay.

Community consultation was a joke, hurriedly undertaken as a box ticking exercise after the whole enormous contract was out to tender.

Confusion abounds when random curiosities and little story boards and cartoon graphics are suggested as legitimate compensation for the destruction of an evocative place of powerful historical imaging. And for who’s benefit? The bus station will be trafficked endlessly by huge interstate buses, minivans, taxis and throngs of visitors eternally enroute to elsewhere. Modern day speed and connectivity will ensure minimal time for contemplation. Any discerning local seeking to connect with and learn of this past will surely be discouraged, let alone a parent wanting to take the kids to the heritage rail yard for a morning out.

There’s no relationship here with the built form and heritage of town and place, there’s no space left here for constructive imagination, our heritage place has been desecrated by boffins and bureaucrats – led by our mayor.

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  1. Yes heritage is held as low priority, Paul. I seem to recall a Council discussion about the use of a non-heritage colour in an area with heritage overlay being dismissed by one councillor because he quite liked the colour – obviously the final arbiter without the need for pesky research and regulation.

    Many areas that have destroyed their heritage architecture for the latest ugly fad or purely utilitarian imperative, have regretted it in hindsight. Once gone, it’s gone!


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