Council rejects DA for Brunswick boarding house

IN WHAT Brunswick Heads residents are describing as "a win for commonsense", the proposal for a 33-unit "new generation" boarding house development at the Bruns Fitness Centre in Teven St was knocked back eight votes to one at last Thursday’s Byron Council meeting.

The application, which was lodged with the council at the end of last year, was intended to provide affordable housing in the area in line with the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and the council’s own affordable housing policy.

"As those who bothered to study the SEPP soon discovered, this building would have impacted adversely on the quality of life for the residents and the surrounding community," residents’ spokesperson Annie Radermacher said.

As well as concerns about the social impact of the proposed boarding house on tenants and the wider community, opponents also stated the lack of proximity to transport, jobs, room size and density as serious concerns.

With eight out of nine councillors voting against the application last Thursday, it was a clear sign that the councillors shared many of the community’s concerns with the proposal.

"There were numerous reasons behind our decision, the major one being the building’s design, which we felt failed the character test," Cr Diane Woods said.

While the council understood the need for affordable housing options in the area, Cr Woods said that this particular building was not what the shire needed.

"Put simply, the building’s design was badly placed," she said.

"They wanted to position it right on the laneway, which would have meant that people living in the single rooms downstairs, some of them with only 12-square metres of actual living space, would have windows just 1.25m off the ground and clearly visible to people walking or driving by."

The council also deemed it the "wrong building in the wrong place".

Cr Woods said there weren’t any real amenities nor was there suitable public transport to support for residents.

She also explained the social impact assessment, which was designed to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment, essentially fell apart.

"The assessment didn’t fall down in its own right, but in our opinion, it was wrong," she said.

"What they didn’t provide, which I thought would have been really important, was some kind of social impact assessment on the people who were going to be living there.

"I felt that it was never going to be a comfortable place for people to live on a long-term basis. It was just like jamming sardines into a tin, really."

Ms Radermacher thanked the councillors for seeing the "bigger picture".

"My hat off to (mayor) Cr Barham, who reaffirmed the community’s concerns in her speech," she said.

Bruns Fitness Centre owner Murray Stebbing said it was disappointing a council that talked about the need for affordable housing had now refused an affordable housing project for the shire.

"The development application was supported by council staff and was a totally compliant development application," he said.

"We believe in this project and council has given us no other option but to deal with them through the Land and Environment Court."

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