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February 5, 2023

Cumbalum shops and affordable homes one step closer – by car

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Cumbalum – PIC Cumbalum Residents Association FB

Cumbalum is one step closer towards having some local shops and five new officially affordable homes in perpetuity thanks to council approval of preliminary planning requirements.

Independent Councillor Jeff Johnson spoke out in September to The Echo about what he described as Cumbalum’s ‘urban sprawl’ development leaving residents neglected in terms of community services.

Housing construction and sales had been allowed to continue without deadlines for accompanying shops, childcare and education facilities and even playgrounds, Cr Johnson said.

The existing site allocated for commercial services was inadequate thanks to its position on a slope, the independent councillor had said.

Catholic Church to build affordable homes in Cumbalum

The old proposed Cumbalum Shopping Centre site, next to playing fields at corner of Power Drive and Ballina Heights Drive. Photo David Lowe.

The mostly administrative moves at last month’s ordinary meeting mean a new, smaller, commercial zone is proposed and the developer, Vixsun, won’t be allowed to sub-divide the old site into housing lots until building of the commercial centre starts.

Councillors agreed not to sign off on the subdivision until an Occupation Certificate for at least 1000m2 of commercial floor space is issued in respect of the new proposed commercial site.

Part of the old site is owned by the Catholic Church, which is to be responsible for ensuring five new affordable homes are built and rented out in perpetuity, with an appropriate community housing organisation to manage the properties.

The Church also has the option of using another block of land the same size – 1,500 square metres – for the same affordable housing project at ‘an appropriate location within the Ballina Parish Cumbalum property portfolio’ instead.

The new arrangement forms what’s called a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA), included with the revised proposal.

Houses built on the old site are to be consistent with the pattern of development already established on the western side of Ballina Heights Drive under the VPA.

New shops no easy stroll away

A map from Ballina Shire Council staff showing a twenty-minute walking distance catchment for the new proposed Cumbalum shopping centre

Meanwhile, the new neighbourhood commercial centre zone is to be built in what is described as ‘a more commercially viable site within the estate’.

The new site is on flatter ground near the Ballina Heights estate entrance via Ballina Heights Drive and, staff say, will benefit from visual exposure to the Pacific Highway and Tamarind Drive.

It will be easier for cars to get to but more arduous for pedestrians.

The new site is around 70 metres below the top of the ridgeline, making for a somewhat ambitious walk home for most nearby residents.

Staff say it’s also less central to the future population catchment of the neighbourhood centres in the Ballina Heights and Banyan Hills estates.

The council has rules requiring shops to be accessible via a twenty-minute walk but staff say the criteria ‘is not met universally across the shire in other urban areas’.

New general store a possibility for Banyan Hill

The Tyalgum General Store. Photo supplied

They say they are currently liaising with the Banyan Hill developers to the north of Ballina Heights, at the developers’ request, to investigate options for an ‘improved development outcome for that part of the urban release area’.

It ‘may be possible as part of those discussions to investigate provision of a site for a small neighbourhood shop in the northern part of the precinct’, staff say.

Staff have echoed Cr Johnson’s earlier concerns, describing an ‘urgent demand for neighbourhood shopping centre facilities to meet the needs of Cumbalum residents, as the population of the locality has grown’.

But, they say, the timing of the development is ‘ultimately at the discretion of the owner of the land’.

Nevertheless, staff have concluded ‘whilst the proposed location is not ideal from the perspective of walkability, provision for a neighbourhood shop in the northern part of the development precinct in Banyan Hill may mitigate this shortcoming’.

Ballina Shire Council staff map showing a new proposed site for a Cumbalum shopping centre

Councillors at November’s ordinary meeting agreed unanimously with the staff recommendation to seek state planning approval for the changes via a Gateway determination and to then put the proposal up for public exhibition.

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader and Cr Jeff Johnson were absent from the meeting.

The changes mostly concern rezoning of the sites, neither of which currently has the zoning required for the VPA to proceed.

The old commercial site needs to be rezoned from a B2 local centre zone to an R3 medium density residential zone and the new site vica-versa.

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  1. This can’t happen soon enough. With over 1000 residents it’s a disgrace that there isn’t a shopping centre, a decent playground or community facilities. Let’s hope the shopping centre can be up and running within the next 2 years and some new playground equipment added to the 2 swing set up that currently exists next to the sports fields.

  2. The development has been lacking in the sense of community infrastructure Eg road access particularly in the light of climate change and flooding events and access to the suburb.
    Increasing population will place demands on schools in the area and it is not clear if another school is proposed.
    In particular the smaller blocks is a joke when we look at affordable housing options Eg dual occupancies. When we arrived in the area in 2014 it was common to find blocks of 900m which allowed for dual occupancies for extended family living. Now we have cars on the streets everywhere because blocks and houses are so small. Beggars belief that the land is so highly priced without any community infrastructure!
    Very poor town planning indeed.


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