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Byron Shire
September 23, 2023

Large Bruns DA ushered through

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An artist’s impression of the proposed development at 7 Tweed Street, Brunswick Heads. Image from the DA

Brunswick Heads will get its first underground car park, after an attempt to overturn the approval of a mixed-use development in the town was voted down by a majority of Byron councillors.

The development on 7 Tweed Street has drawn the ire of many in the local community, who say that the inclusion of a two-space basement car park is neither flood-safe, nor in keeping with the character of the town.

1,000 strong petition

More than 1,000 locals signed a petition calling on Byron Council to refuse the proposal and to amend the planning rules for Brunswick Heads to prohibit such car parks from being built in the future.

But this was not enough to convince a majority of councillors to overturn the decision they made back in June to approve the development.

At last Thursday’s Council planning meeting, a rescission motion moved by Greens councillor Duncan Dey, and Independent Peter Westheimer, was voted down by six votes to two.

Fear of legal action

Two councillors who had previously voted against the development, Greens Deputy Mayor, Sarah Ndiaye and Independent, Cr Sama Balson, changed their positions from opposition to support.

This proved crucial to the outcome of the vote.

Earlier in the meeting, Cr Westheimer called on councillors to act in accordance with the wishes of the Brunswick Heads community, rather than basing their decision on the fear of legal action by the developer should he not get his way.

‘When it comes to overdevelopment, the buck stops with us as councillors, not with Mr James [Council’s lawyer] or Council staff,’ Cr Westheimer said.

Among the key arguments put forward in opposition to the development was that underground car parking was not permissible under the planning rules for that part of Brunswick Heads, a position that was disputed by Council’s lawyer Ralph James.

Car park not be flood-safe

It was also asserted that the car park would not be flood-safe, because the floor level proposed was roughly equal to the current king tide level, and well below both the 10-year and 100-year flood level.

The flood mitigation measures included in the development, particularly an electronic flood barrier, were also called into question.

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

But Mayor Michael Lyon described these arguments as ‘grasping at straws’.

‘If we keep knocking back developments because we don’t like them, we’re doing a disservice to ratepayers, because they’re the ones who ultimately have to foot the legal bill,’ Cr Lyon said.

‘Whether you like this development or not really isn’t relevant. It’s compliant.’

Cr Ndiaye said the Council could not afford a hefty legal bill because it had ‘nothing’ in its reserves.

A need to be prudent

‘We need to be prudent and to make decisions on the basis of the facts that are before us,’ Cr Ndiaye said.

The key question now facing councillors is whether they will use their powers to amend planning laws in Brunswick Heads to prevent underground car parks being built there in future.

A majority of councillors have argued in favour of this action during the debate over the Tweed Street development, including Cr Balson, and Labor Councillor Asren Pugh.

Those in favour of the DA were Crs Lyon, Balson, Pugh, Swivel, Ndiaye and Hunter.

Cr Coorey, an opponent of the plan, was not present for the vote. However, Cr Lyon promised to use his casting vote to support Cr Coorey’s wishes in the event of a deadlock.

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  1. What is not mentioned here is increasing cost. The cost today surely will not be the cost in a few month’s time.
    In September, the petrol excise tax cut comes off and all petrol will increase in cost therefore adding to inflation and prices throughout out the nation
    The cost of two-space underground car park is an enormous increase in cost compared to an above-ground car park.
    Underground car parks are an enormous cost so they are for hundreds of cars, not a few cars. Therefore the cost of the car park is added onto the products sold. as the increase in infaltion adds on to intererest rates in loans. The cost of living is going to increase, rising as the war in Ukraine goes on, so what needs to be built is a building that is inexpensive and economic, otherwise the cost is added onto the products sold. A development is supposed to make the life of the residents easier.
    Look at the photo. Just why are there cars parked out the front on the side of the road?
    The building of a 100-space underground car park would increase patronage and profits.

  2. The DCP is in plain English that underground car parking at the proposed site is NOT allowed. So where do some on council and Mr. James get grasping at straws from? This was NOT explained in the decision, at least not in the article in the Echo. This site is only just above the water table, one of the lowest flood prone areas in Brunswick Heads. The population of Brunswick Heads is around 1,650 and 1,000 petitioners and many many letters written are not enough? Mr. James said what he said, but the actual evidence to back his view has not been presented. Mr. James and Council need to be able to explain to the community in plain English how they can interpret the DCP as meaning it’s permissible to have this underground car park here. Someone, being Mr. James in this case, saying they dispute something is nothing but hearsay. For Council to be swayed by this is simply unconscionable. If Council and/or Mr. James can not clearly and simply explain and publish their explanation so that the Community can understand how this opinion was arrived at, than something fishy is going on or those making decisions do not have the ability to back their arguments.

  3. There is no point in having a Council with planning powers when it really has no powers at all but votes against the community’s wishes in fear of a court case and/or of being over-ruled by the LNP NSW State Planning authority. Lets just get rid of the Council Planning and Enforcement staff who don’t benefit anyone except the rich and the developers and who continually ruin the Shire for the genuine long term residents.

  4. The issue with this DA was the integrity of the Brunswick Heads’ DCP Section 3 part (d) that prohibited basement car parks in both the B2 and B4 zones. Council staff disputed that!
    The DA could have been refused on the following grounds alone
    1. tidal influence – the developer’s consultant stated their was no tidal influence in evidence at the time of the investigation ! The fact there is tidal influence was ignored by Council’s staff in spite of the evidence given to them
    2. traffic assessment – the developer’s consultant argued there was no need for a ‘performance appraisal’ at the adjoining intersections because the trip generation from the development was so low. BSC’s DCP puts the trip generation into ‘moderate’ requiring a performance appraisal of those intersections which locals are aware have problems. There there is the cross over to the development that has to be extended 500mm on either side to bring it to 7m longwise in length. This has to function as a passing bay for vehicles exiting the basement whilst there are vehicles moving along Veteran’s Lane. In spite of questioning staff, who did not respond, that cross over may now be within 6m of what is called the radius of the kerb and guttering….totally illegal if it is
    3. Surface drainage issues – the developer is sending part of the surface runoff over to the western side of Tweed Street to flow into the drain from Fawcett Street along the back of Harbour Way. This area is know to flood in a storm event. They will now have more water to cope with.
    Other than for the required modelling of surface water in the next 20 years and 1:100 years, there didn’t appear to be any consideration of climate change as required?
    4. The developer argument in public access that basements are used in Amsterdam, Singapore etc is correct and not in dispute, but I bet the Dutch and the Singaporeans wouldn’t tolerate what has been approved for this site. Reasons being for the aforementioned tidal influences, plus the cross over will flood in a storm event. But wait, the developer will have an electronic flood gate!


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