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October 4, 2022

Bruns underground car park reconsidered 

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Byron Council’s decision to approve a controversial mixed-use development in Brunswick Heads that would include the town’s first underground car park could be overturned at this week’s meeting, with a group of councillors moving a rescission motion.

More than 700 locals have signed a petition opposing the development at 7 Tweed Street, which would see an old service station replaced with a two-storey building featuring retail, business and residential premises, as well as the underground car park.

The proposal was approved by the barest of margins at the June Council meeting, with Mayor Michael Lyon using his casting vote to get the matter over the line after the councillor vote was tied at four-four.

But in the days following the vote, Greens councillor, Duncan Dey, successfully led a push for a rescission motion, along with Independent councillors, Cate Coorey and Peter Westheimer.

Cr Westheimer was elected on Cr Lyon’s ticket.

Cr Dey will move that motion at this week’s meeting.

Should the motion be successful, he will then move that the development be refused, effectively sending the developer back to square one.

Central among the seven reasons put forward in support of the refusal motion is that approving an underground car park would set an ‘undesirable precedent’ that was ‘not in the public interest’.

‘It appears that over the last few years, either partly unbeknownst to, or misunderstood by councillors and the community, underground car parking has been introduced into the development Control Plan for Brunswick Heads,’ Cr Peter Westheimer said in a press release issued last week. 

‘It was couched as a way of accommodating slightly larger developments and helping to mitigate somehow against impact on pedestrians.

‘Well it didn’t succeed, and has left us in a mess.’

Cr Westheimer and the other opponents also say that the car park is not flood-safe, because the floor level proposed is roughly equal to the current king tide level, and is well below both the ten-year and 100-year flood level.

They have also questioned the effectiveness of the flood mitigation measures included in the development, particularly an electronic flood barrier. 

Other reasons put forward for refusal include a lack of appropriate vehicle access to the site, and the extra strain it will put on the town’s already strained parking resources.

‘The DA breaches community trust and standards in many ways,’ Cr Westheimer said. ‘It could be redesigned and reconfigured fairly easily.’

Council staff and the councillors who voted in favour of the development, at the June meeting, argue that it is compliant with planning rules for Brunswick Heads, and thus Council had little choice but to approve it.

To do otherwise would leave the Council open to a costly legal challenge by the developer in the Land and Environment Court.

This argument was echoed in the comments of Council staff in relation to the rescission motion coming before this week’s meeting.

Staff said that, in the event of such a challenge, the Council would need to engage external solicitors and planning experts, at an estimated overall cost to ratepayers of between $50,000 and $80,000.

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