Heritage order on council chambers

The former Byron Shire Council chambers at Byron Bay which has now had an interim heritage order slapped on it.
The former Byron Shire Council chambers at Byron Bay which has now had an interim heritage order slapped on it.

An application to demolish the old Byron Shire Council chambers at Byron Bay to make way for a $10 million redevelopment of the site has led to an interim heritage order being placed on the building.

The order was published in the NSW Government Gazette on Christmas Eve and it will allow the council time to assess whether the building should be given permanent protection.

However, the ultimate decision will rest with the State Government.

The development application seeks to demolish the building, now housing a backpackers' hostel, replacing it with apartments and shops.

Byron Mayor, Cr Jan Barham, said she would fight to save the building which served as a council chambers from 1929 to 1996 when it was sold to Agcorp Construction of Alstonville for $2.53 million.

Cr Barham said it would be "devastating" to see the building demolished.

"It has a huge significance for the town especially as we are losing so many of our buidings," she said.

Cr Barham said a council heritage committee was working on a list of Byron Bay heritage buildings.

A heritage order on the old council building didn't mean it could not be redeveloped, she said.

Redevelopment could occur, but the "substantial" building had to remain intact.

Steve Agnew from Agcorp Construction said he had "half-expected" an interim order to be placed on the building.

Mr Agnew said the developers would just have to wait and see "what the council comes up with" after its assessment.

He said he had an open mind on the issue and if there was some way the facade of the building could be kept, it would be considered.

There was no hurry to get the redevelopment started and it probably wouldn't be viable for "another couple of years" anyway.

Mr Agnew said the council had been "spruiking" that there were too many backpacker hostels at Byron Bay and the planned redevelopment would have done something about that.

He said the council had occupied the building for many years "and they didn't think it was worthwhile listing" in that time.

"That speaks volumes," he said.

The council's decision to sell the Byron Bay building caused a storm in the town with many accusing it off selling of its assets too cheaply.

At the time of the sale to Agcorp, Mr Agnew said the building's original facade would be retained in the redevelopment as a backpackers' hostel.

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