This afternoon’s community hearing before the Northern Planning Panel took an unexpected turn when Panel Chair, Gary West, announced at the outset that the Panel intended to refuse the Development Application they were considering. The DA was for the (mostly) eastern portion of the site including Belongil Fields — owned by ‘local’ landowners known collectively as Site R&D.
“It was an amazing turn of events and so gratifying to hear the community burst into rapturous applause and give the Panel a standing ovation,” said Cate Coorey, Byron Shire councillor and spokesperson for Byron Residents’ Group.
“It was BRG that lobbied hard to get the Planning Panel (formerly the JRPP) to hold another meeting after the last one in October was left unresolved. The last minute dumping of new material just prior to that meeting meant that neither Council nor the Panel had adequate time to consider it. The owners of the site had already lodged an action in the Land and Environment Court that meant the court would have made a decision, ahead of the Panel, effectively thwarting the planning process.
“It was important that the people of Byron Bay got the right to see the process upheld and with this meeting we have seen the Panel come to the same conclusion that we as a community have long asserted. This development is wrong for this site and it cannot demonstrate that there will be no serious impacts – ecological or social. We are thankful to the Panel for their thorough and judicious appraisal and relieved that they could see what we as a community knew.
“The Panel cited 20 reasons for refusal, which was a comprehensive list of 19 points in Council ‘s recommendation and one added by the Panel, which emphasised to the community and the proponents the Panel’s role to maintain the precautionary principle in considering developments. The bases for the refusal are of course what this community has been pointing out for years, including ecological impacts on the Belongil, the decline of the koala population and endangered frog populations the concerns with storm and wastewater management and the traffic burden, to name a few.
“It was disappointing that Stuart Murray, representing the ‘local’ landowners Site R&D, chose to shoot the messenger. Rather than deal with the substantive, fundamental problems with the Development Application, he criticised Council and the community submissions.
“Our community should especially give thanks to Byron Residents Group’s Dailan Pugh OAM, whose exceptional work has helped our community to better understand the impacts of the West Byron developments and who has been tireless since the beginning in pushing back against this damaging project that takes so much from Byron Bay whilst giving back little of value.”
The Land Environment process continues with a conciliation conference that commences on the site on 12 February 2019.