Truth versus fiction – West Byron

Suburbia comes to Byron. With some housing blocks as small as 150sqm, parts of the West Byron development could look like this.
Suburbia comes to Byron. With some housing blocks as small as 150sqm, parts of the West Byron development could look like this.

“Byron Bay needs more housing”
There is a myth that we need more houses built in Byron Bay because there is a shortage of housing. The would-be developers of West Byron are trying to sell this myth to the Department of Planning and to the community. The reality is in fact the complete opposite.   We are building far more houses than are needed for the amount of growth we are actually experiencing.

The Far North Coast Regional Strategy of 2007 (FNCRS) required that Byron Local Government Area provide 2600 new dwellings until 2031. That equates to around 104 dwellings annually.  The Department of Planning document2013-10-18 FNC_DemographicandHousing Review_2013_Final Report-1 claims that in Byron shire since 2006, approximately 200 dwellings have been approved per annum. (p53) .

We have already reached the 2020 target for houses, despite the fact that population growth “has occurred at a much lower rate than anticipated”.

Most significantly the Far North Coast Region Residential Submarket Analysis predicts that growth in Byron shire is going to “slow to average 0.1% per annum between 2016 and 2031”.  This is a growth rate of 54 persons per annum, which means we should be dramatically reducing our dwelling targets rather than increasing them.
There is a shortage of rental accommodation in Byron because there are an estimated 700-800 houses that are illegal holiday lets.

Traffic solution?
The developers promoted themselves as the saviours of Byron’s traffic problem:
“With the traffic solutions in whatever form the community and Council decide, funded in part by our contributions, the walkways, cycleways and the proposed new rail shuttle between Sunrise and town the traffic issues can finally be resolved.”

The Butler Street bypass that has been announced by local member Don Page and funded by the NSW government – all to facilitate West Byron going ahead – was never the choice of the community or the Council.
Council had rejected that option in the past because their study showed that this bypass will only divert 7-14% of traffic. West Byron’s 2000 or more new homes and businesses is likely to increase the inflow of traffic by at least 30%. The Butler Street bypass is a waste of time and money.

“Redevelopment of the site proposes new dual lane roundabouts on Ewingsdale Road to service the new population and maintain traffic flow.”
What possible benefit will dual lane roundabouts do to improve the traffic? They will still encounter a choke point when they reach town.

Acid sulfate soils
In response to assertions by many experts that the site is predominantly acid sulfate soil, the developers’ response has been:
We do not think it is credible merely to state the existence of potential acid sulfate soils and assume the worst, when the development process requires detailed earthworks plans at a later date and, as stated in the draft SEPP, an acid sulfate soils management plan if required.”

It is right to assume the worst and any potential development on acid sulfate soils that would drain into an estuary that is also part of Cape Byron Marine Park should never even be considered until a detailed acid sulfate soils management plan was in place. To seek permission to develop without this is to put the cart before what is likely to be a Trojan horse of environmental damage.

Affordable housing
The developers are saying they are doing a favour to the people of Byron. “The lack of land for housing has pushed prices up so that many ordinary workers and locals can no longer afford to live here. We believe that adding to the supply of residential land and housing will bring prices down and give more people the opportunity to live in Byron Bay rather than commute from out of town.”
What do you consider affordable?

From ‘The Australian’ newspaper 5 June 2014:
SYDNEY property developer Terry Agnew has bought a high-profile site onthe edge of Byron Bay for the first major housing development in the
picturesque NSW north coast town in almost three decades.
Mr Agnew has acquired nearly 80ha on Ewingsdale Road, Byron Bay, for a 450 house and land subdivision as well as a 51-lot industrial subdivision in a $7.7 million deal. He is also redeveloping Great Keppel Island off the coast of Queensland with former world No 1 golfer Greg Norman into a luxury $2 billion tourist destination.
In Byron Bay Mr Agnew, head of Sydney-based Tower Holdings, plans to sell the house and land packages on 600sq m lots for $750,000-$800,000, and those on 450sq m lots for about $595,000. Plans for a substantial rezoning of 6 Ewingsdale Road, which was bought as part of a receivership sale from Crighton Properties, are before the NSW government’s Department of Planning. Sign-off is imminent …
… It is understood he is considering retaining half of the house and land packages as investments given suburban houses in Byron Bay rent for at least $900 a week.
Is this affordable housing?

There are 3 new developments already slated for Byron Bay that will soon be coming online. Supply and demand in Byron Bay

There is no shortage of houses in Byron. There is a shortage of rental accommodation that could be let out to locals because many houses in Byron are holiday rentals. There is nothing to prevent the houses at West Byron being bought by investors and holiday let like everywhere else in Byron.

What is an ‘affordable’ house?

Building 1100 new houses at West Byron would definitely bring housing prices down, especially in Ewingsdale and Sunrise because they will become unbearable to live in because of the traffic queues that will be more frequent and longer. It will also affect the rest of town because when the traffic problem gets so insane that no-one wants to visit then businesses that rely on visitors will suffer and Byron will lose its desirability as a place to visit and a place to live — then everyone’s house will devalue.


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