Maybe your last chance to have a say on one half of West Byron – Villa World is back!


Dailan Pugh, September 2020.

Villa World’s West Byron development is back, and until Wednesday 30 September you can make a submission to Byron Council. It will then be up to the court to decide whether to approve it. So this may be your last chance to have a say on one half of West Byron.

A lot has happened in the West Byron saga since Villa World’s Development Application (DA) was rejected by the Northern Regional Planning Panel on 8 April 2019.

First the landowner, Tower Holdings, had to repay Villa World Ltd their $10 million deposit for an interest in the land, as it was dependent upon a successful DA.

Then Tower Holdings purchased the subsidiary Villa World Byron Pty Ltd so that they could appeal the rejection in the Land and Environment Court. In August there was a court  conciliation conference on the original DA, to which 7 community members were allowed to submit short written statements

Now Villa World Byron have submitted a revised DA to the court, which is on public exhibition until Wednesday 30 September. There will be no extensions, and the court will determine the DA.

By halving the size of their development, setting their development back 30m from Ewingsdale Road, excluding the habitat of the Wallum frogs and removing development from the eastern Koala area, Villa World have made a genuine attempt to address many of the community concerns.

They can’t overcome the problems of increasing congestion on Ewingsdale Road, further stressing an already degraded estuary, and the vulnerability of the site to rising seas due to climate heating.

Villa World have reduced the number of residential lots from 281 down to 145, with an additional 4 dwellings on large residual land parcels. Many of the original lots were intended for further subdivision, giving an overall reduction in the maximum potential yield from 420 down to 179 primary dwellings. Under both scenarios all lots are allowed to have secondary dwellings, significantly increasing the potential totals.

To ensure that there is no further development on the residual land parcels, Villa World have agreed to include perpetual legal restrictions over their use, and to work with Council to rezone them to a rural/environmental zone (though this needs reaffirmation).

This time they applied the RTA Guidelines to identify the traffic generation for 149 dwellings as 1,490 additional vehicle movements per day (vpd) on Ewingsdale Rd, though with allowances for dual occupancies and secondary dwellings over 2,000 extra vpd could be expected.

This is relative to an existing traffic volume of some 21,000 vpd, which will also be increased by the adjacent Site R&D development.

After vainly battling the Department of Planning and Byron Council for years to get a setback from Ewingsdale Road for aesthetic reasons, Villa World’s replacement of the concrete wall with a landscaped 30m setback is welcomed.

Villa World’s abandonment of the eastern part of their development is good for this important Koala corridor (and bushfire safety), though this would be enhanced if revegetation was targeted around the core Koala habitat in this vicinity (mostly on Site R&D land).

The removal of development from the western drainage line and wetland home of the Vulnerable Wallum Sedge Frog is a relief, as the previous intent was to bury these under up to 3m of fill and houses, although there needs to be a bigger buffer to the wetland and improvements to the drainage system to increase their chances of surviving this DA.

Flood impacts still rely on Council’s 2015 study, which has since been identified as fundamentally flawed. Though most significantly it only considers a maximum sea-level rise of 0.8 m by the end of this century when a 1-2 m rise is more likely.

While there is reduced development of floodprone land, there has been an unexplained increase in the depth of fill by over a metre in places, and so an increase in the volume of fill required to be imported from 168,800 m3 to 215,000 m3. An additional 4,620 truck loads is not trivial, yet there is no explanation.

With secondary dwellings, this development can be expected to house over 500 people consuming some 35 megalitres of water per annum. What isn’t evaporated, ends up in coastal wetlands and the Cape Byron Marine Park as overland flow, groundwater seepage or discharge from the sewerage treatment plant, along with a large variety of pollutants.

The drainage of Acid Sulfate Soils and polluted groundwater will add sulphuric acid and a cocktail of iron, aluminium and heavy metals to the mix.

While we know the Belongil estuary is already badly polluted and in dire need of remediation, there has still been no attempt to assess the health of its waters and biota. This is essential to identify the additional impact of this development on an already severely stressed system. The intent to undertake limited monitoring after it is developed is too little too late.

The adjoining Site R&D DA is listed for a court hearing on 9-13 November 2020, though now thatVilla World have abandoned the western roads that Site R&D depended upon they will need to change their DA again.

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