Guest editorial by Paul Bibby
Could Main Arm’s title as the Unauthorised Dwelling Capital of the World be under threat?
It’s hard to believe, I know.
However, it appears that while Main Arm bore the brunt of Byron Council’s ill-fated crackdown on unapproved homes last year, such dwellings have been spawning like medicinal mushrooms in Byron’s Arts and Industry Estate (AIE) for years.
And it also seems that, much like Main Arm, attempts to bring these miscreants back into the regulatory fold have been far from successful.
Well, that’s the suggestion from Council aspirant, and the president of Community Alliance Byron Shire, Matthew O’Reilly.
During the pubic access section of last Thursday’s council planning meeting, Cr O’Reilly (oops, sorry, ‘Mr O’Reilly’) declared that moves to regularise unauthorised dwellings in the AIE had been a ‘failure’.
You see, when the Shire’s 2014 Development Control Plan (DCP) was introduced, it included a provision allowing essential managers and caretakers who worked in the estate to have their dwellings there.
This was an attempt by Mayor Simon Richardson, and others on Council, to encourage those naughty folk living illegally above their kombucha factories to get approval.
All they had to do was submit a DA for their slightly fermented dwellings and, assuming the plans were compliant, everything was tickety-boo.
But six years and thousands of Lycra-clad yoga classes later, it seems barely anyone has applied to join Cr Richardson in the land of the legal.
‘I’ve gone through the development applications for the Arts and Industry Estate since 2014 and there have been very, very few, if any, development applications to regularise unauthorised dwellings there,’ Mr O’Reilly said.
‘From what I can see, the only DAs for caretakers’ residences and managers’ dwellings have been for new industrial facilities.’
Meanwhile, the estate has become not only a source of delightfully nourishing cold-pressed juices, but also a residential estate.
‘At the last census, the numbers were between three and four hundred people living permanently in the estate in Byron,’ Mr O’Reilly said.
‘We’re due to have another census this year and it’s very likely those numbers will have drastically increased.
‘We’re not just talking about single-bedroom dwellings, we’re also talking about two- and three-bedroom dwellings.
‘A consequence of this is that the Arts and Industry Estate has become a suburb as large as many other suburbs within the Shire, but without the requisite infrastructure and facilities such as footpaths, schools, parks and so on.
Mr O’Reilly concluded the lesson by setting Council staff some homework:
‘Could Council staff advise how many ancillary [essential] caretaker and managers’ dwellings have been approved in industrial and business zones since the commencement of the Byron 2014 LEP, and whether development contributions for dwellings were paid for those approvals?’ he asked.
Unsurprisingly, staff did not have the answer immediately to hand, but promised to submit their assignment via email.
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