Once-sleepy Alstonville is set to further expand and get a safer intersection with its bypass if Ballina Shire Council has its way.
The debate opened with a mayoral minute from Cr David Wright, lodging an urgent objection to Transport for NSW’s plan for the intersection of Ballina Road and the Bruxner Highway at Alstonville, a well-known black spot.
The government plans to create an on ramp at Ellis Road and permanently remove the right hand turn out of Ballina Road to the west, rather than building council’s preferred option of a roundabout, or an overpass.
Mayor Wright argued that the latest approach will maintain the dangerous turn into Alstonville from the bypass, steer extra traffic through the village, and do nothing to shorten travel times, while also creating more risk of accidents with people needing to do U turns on the Bruxner Highway to get to Lismore from that side of Alstonville.
He said that on an earlier visit to Alstonville, the Roads Minister at the time, Melinda Pavey, had promised to fix the problem, whatever it took, but the government had now reneged on this.
Cr Ben Smith said he appreciated the mayoral minute and Cr Wright’s passion on the issue, which was also close to his heart.
He said most people he’d spoken to were unhappy with what was being proposed, and that there was inadequate consultation time for a response, with the whole process being ‘disrespectful’ to those who had fought for years to get something done about the problem.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader also spoke in support of the mayoral minute. She said Alstonville’s growth and the development of screen businesses in the area added up to more traffic at that already dangerous intersection, ‘and safety has got to be paramount. It’s got to be fixed and it’s got to be fixed as soon as possible,’ she said.
Cr Eoin Johnston concurred, highlighting the tragedies of the intersection which would not have been avoided by the proposed changes, saying the major safety issue was vehicles turning right into Alstonville and going across the traffic, ‘which the government’s plan did nothing to address.’ He also said ‘directing the traffic through the middle of Alstonville is for the community the worst outcome.’
Cr Johnston described the $30m proposed cost of a roundabout as ‘jaw dropping’.
Mayor Wright concluded the debate by saying, ‘This is not a slam on RMS. The trouble is RMS have gone through many machinations even since 2020.’
His motion to object to the NSW government’s proposal for the intersection was supported unanimously by all councillors present (Cr Nathan Willis was an apology).
Urban infill the lesser of two evils?
Still in Alstonville, all councillors except outgoing Cr Sharon Parry voted to work with the Department of Planning Industry and Environment to amend the LEP to allow greater housing density in the village, up to 1 dwelling per 300 square metres.
Cr Ben Smith wondered why not 200 square metres, as had been discussed earlier, considering ‘we need more dwellings on the flat stuff’? Staff responded by saying that number might be considered in the future, but was not currently considered ‘optimal’.
Cr Sharon Parry said she had major concerns about turning Alstonville into a ghetto. ‘I have to say I am totally against this. Have a look driving around Alstonville and see what people so far have been allowed to do,’ she said.
‘It’s just awful. People build a granny flat or a small unit in their front yard or they cut off the side and build it there and it’s just a mess. I hate to think we’re going to allow more of it,’ she said.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader said she heard what Cr Parry was saying, ‘but the reality is that it stops the urban sprawl, this infill development… and it does go some way to providing attainable housing.
‘In an ideal world, of course, we’d love to have huge blocks with big plantation type homes,’ said Cr Cadwallader.
Cr Keith Williams said although he had some concerns about visual impact, he would be supporting the amendment, as the issues with affordable housing were getting steadily worse. ‘Rents have increased by 25% in the last twelve months,’ he said.
‘We also have a less than 1% rental vacancy rate. This is extraordinary. The pressure on people to be able to afford to continue to live in our shire is real.’
Cr Eoin Johnston said he would support the motion although he thought was happening to Alstonville was ‘tragic’.
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