Ewingsdale residents are accusing Byron Shire Council of ‘deliberately’ withholding information from them regarding a seniors living/retail proposal surrounding the Byron Central Hospital.
It’s a development which could see the addition of 400 new residents – predominantly seniors – over the 15- hectare parcel, according to a Council planning staff report.
Calling it a ‘complete restructure of their community’, Ewingsdale Community Association vice-president Lorissa Barrett said, ‘This large-scale development will see the gateway to Byron Bay changed irreparably and double the population of our village.
‘Ewingsdale residents are not asking for zero development; we are asking for time to adequately discuss appropriate development, and not rush through a poorly structured and badly planned high-density living arrangement, under the guise of aged care,’
Mayor calls to delay decision
Due to be debated at this Thursday’s Council meeting, mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo that he will seek councillor support to delay the decision until the Growth Management Strategy is complete.
‘My intention on Thursday is to not consider the application until the completion of the Forward Planning (housing) process,’ he said.
For the development to go ahead, Council’s planning instrument, the Byron Local Environment PLan (LEP) 2014, would need too be amended before it is sent to state planners for determination.
According to a Council planner report in this week’s agenda, the amended LEP would ‘permit seniors housing, medical centre, business premises, restaurants or cafes, and shops on two lots either side of the future hospital site at Ewingsdale.’
Council staff added, ‘should the Department of Planning and Infrastructure issue a positive Gateway determination, a master plan would need to be prepared to adequately address issues…’
They include ‘suitable buffer areas between the existing concrete batching plant/electricity station and the subject land to be adequately assessed and provided; and transport networks for pedestrians/buggies within and between the subject land and the hospital to be identified.
Additionally, updated traffic studies, a site contamination assessment, sewerage management clarification and an heritage assessment of ‘Buildings and surrounds’.
As for public submissions received, staff say ‘60 were opposed to the proposal in varying degrees, with two submissions in support.’
Traffic, impacts on amenity
Council planning staff also wrote, ‘There were three main issues in which more than half of the objectors listed a similar theme. The three issues which seemed to draw most attention were: traffic congestion, impacts on character of Ewingsdale and lifestyle and amenity issues.’
Regarding community consultation, staff added that ‘The planning proposal was placed on public exhibition for 28 days from July 15 to August 11 2014 and written notifications were sent to landowners for the whole of Ewingsdale, totalling 205 letters. Three community information sessions were held in the Ewingsdale Hall on 29 July which were primarily run by the proponents, with Council staff introducing each session and being present for the entire evening session to answer questions from the public.
‘The proponent had organised a presentation featuring numerous consultants involved in the proposal covering seniors housing, design issues, flora and fauna and traffic management. The information sessions were well attended with approximately 100 people turning up in total over the whole day.’
The issues raised in the submissions are also analysed and responded to by staff as part of Council’s upcoming agenda.
Not good enough
But the association’s Ms Barrett told The Echo, ‘At our first community meeting with the councillors last week (September 30), we discovered that the Byron Shire Council’s planning department had already recommended that the councillors vote to endorse the LEP changes at the October 9 council meeting.’
‘That is not appropriate community consultation. As residents we feel completely disenfranchised. The community consultation process gave residents only 28 days from July 15 till August 11, 2014 to review and make submissions to a planning proposal, which will potentially change the character of Ewingsdale and the entrance to Byron Bay.
‘The council had it presented to them on April 13, 2013, but July 2014 was the first time we heard about it – and now we hear they are already planning to vote with only a week for us to talk to them!
‘The Community Association organised the meeting in the hall on September 30 and invited the councillors to attend. Council made no attempt to consult with us about the development on their own accord.
‘This is an opportunity to plan a truly amazing gateway to Byron Bay.
‘It should be well thought out and add to the vibrancy of the shire. This development is far from it’.