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June 25, 2021

Plans to increase building heights in Byron CBD may be shelved

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Byron Council’s controversial plan to increase building height limits on a block in the centre of Byron Bay looks set to be abandoned at this week’s planning meeting.

Council staff have recommended the about-face as part of their latest report on the Byron Bay Town Centre Planning Controls.

The new controls, which will play an important role in shaping the future built character of the Byron CBD, have been the subject of much debate since they were first put on public exhibition in 2018.

There has been extensive public consultation and debate over the changes, leading to the final submissions report to be debated at this week’s meeting prior to adoption by the Council.

Among the most contentious changes is a proposal to increase building height limits from nine to 11.5m on the block bordered by Lawson Street, Jonson Street, Middleton Street and Bay Lane.

A number of local residents felt that this height increase would have a significant visual impact on this part of town, and take it further down the path of overdevelopment to a point where it would resemble the Gold Coast.

Council planner Isabelle Hawton strongly implied in her report that these concerns were unjustified, but nevertheless recommended that the change be shelved.

‘Many submissions appeared confused about the current height limits in the Byron Town Centre, and were under the impression that the proposed 11.5m was completely new and did not apply anywhere else in the town centre – this is incorrect,’ Ms Hawton said in her report.

‘The intent of exploring a height increase in this block was to increase the capacity of shop- top housing or upper storey commercial in the town centre.

‘Given the level of community concern generated by the proposed height increase, and the quite minor increased capacity it could generate, it is considered that there is no strong planning or urban design reason to pursue the change in height.

‘It is therefore recommended that the existing 9.0m maximum building height limit be retained in this part of the town centre.’

Should councillors vote to adopt the plan at this week’s meeting, it will be sent to the NSW Department of Planning for finalisation and then adopted by Council.

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