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Byron Shire
December 4, 2022

Development policies tweaked

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Councillors propose amending planning instruments that govern DAs

A significant increase in the minimum floor level for all new buildings in flood-affected parts of Byron Shire, and a blanket ban on basement carparks in Brunswick Heads, are among a raft of changes to local planning rules being proposed by Byron Council.

Councillors are proposing to make the changes to the Byron Development Control Plan (DCP), a key planning document that, while far from sexy, plays a central role in shaping local development.

At last week’s planning meeting, councillors spent more than two hours debating a list of 25 proposed amendments put forward by Council staff, many of which flowed from issues that have arisen in the assessment of local development applications (DAs).

The list of proposed amendments passed by councillors will now go on public exhibition.

‘There has been a change in the dynamic of the types of buildings we’re seeing in Byron Bay and the Byron Shire,’ former mayor Oliver Dunne told the Council during the public access section of the meeting.

‘It’s a new design ethos and it represents larger, bulkier buildings which go straight up off the site – two, three, and even four storeys.’

Mr Dunne said that in recent years, the shire had witnessed a departure from the North Coast vernacular, the coastal architectural style characterised by the classic Queenslander house. 

Fit for purpose

‘It means that your DCP is no longer fit for purpose, compared to what people have submitted and what people are trying to achieve,’ he said. ‘We would request Council look at the entire DCP and see whether it’s fit for purpose.’

While councillors stopped well short of a complete planning policy overhaul, they did implement a number of significant changes in a bid to more effectively regulate development across the shire, particularly residential development.

This included significantly increasing the minimum floor height for new buildings built in areas that are now considered to be at risk of future flooding.

All floor levels on new buildings in these areas will now need to be greater than or equal to the ‘five per cent AEP flood level’ as recommended in the North Byron Floodplain Risk Management Plan.

Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) levels are a means of describing how likely a flood is to occur at a particular level.

Thus, a five per cent AEP flood level is a flood level that has a five per cent chance of occurring, or being exceeded, in any given year at the given location.

Previously, all floor levels in areas of the Byron Shire considered to be flood affected, needed to be greater than or equal to the 10-year flood level plus 0.3m.

The new level works out to be significantly higher and will have a significant effect on development in these areas.

A less far-reaching but equally topical amendment to the DCP is the ban on basement carparking in Brunswick Heads.

The measure is the direct outcome of a controversial development in the town in which a mixed-use development with a basement carpark was approved under a loophole in the DCP.

Councillors are proposing that the amended policy state that ‘excavated parking basements are not permitted within Brunswick Heads’.

Height limits

The policy would also state that buildings in the town be limited to two storeys, and that roof top decks will not be permitted.

Other key amendments proposed by councillors include changes to the rules regarding building height planes, solar access and privacy in Urban, Village and Special Purpose Zones, and additional controls specific to the Wategos Beach residential area.

These latter controls include limiting the size of underground carparks to 50 square metres, limiting the size of dwellings to 50 per cent of the total site, and requiring developers to submit a stormwater plan that includes strategies to mitigate and manage stormwater flows.

The full list of proposed DCP amendments can be viewed on Council’s website.

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