Plans are finally in for the redevelopment of the old Byron Hospital that will facilitate its transformation into a much-needed community hub.
A Development Application (DA) submitted by Byron Council to its own planning department last week sets out a series of changes that will give the buildings – some of them nearly 70 years old – a new lease on life.
The plans, currently viewable on the Council’s website, will see the entire roof on the northern section of the main building being replaced, and major internal work undertaken inside.
All internal partitioning is to be demolished and the building repartitioned into a series of discrete tenancies comprising a mix of sizes and configurations to meet the varying needs of future tenants.
These include a small university campus for up to 175 local students and staff, at least one local welfare service, and an arts organisation.
The dilapidated hospital kitchen will be turned into a modern commercial kitchen that will be available for hire, with priority given to not-for-profit groups providing food to community members in need.
The old kiosk will be turned into a cafe to service students and other site users.
According to the Statement of Environmental Effects accompanying the DA, the plans for the site are more than 18 months in the making, and include numerous consultation meetings with different community groups and stakeholders.
The only concern raised during these discussions, the statement says, was the conflict that could result from having welfare services located next to creative, educational and commercial institutions.
‘These concerns have been addressed through the design, in which precincts are well separated with multiple access points,’ the statement says.
‘The welfare services also have the opportunity to use the space as a base and provide outreach programs throughout the town centre, not necessarily from the site itself.’
Previous fears over the presence of asbestos and radioactive sand on the site have reportedly been allayed through the implementation of a remediation action plan.
Applicant and the consent authority
While the DA itself appears to be fairly uncontroversial, the fact that it is being assessed by Council raises questions about situations where a council is both the applicant and the consent authority.
Currently in NSW, there is no effective provision for an independent arbiter to take over the assessment of a local project being undertaken by a council, unless that project is of such size and economic value that it is deemed a ‘state significant development’.