Food hub: Up to 400 Northern Rivers' jobs at risk

AN APPLICATION for a $23 million food hub on Bangalow Rd at Bangalow is still before Byron Shire Council but its ultimate fate will rest with a higher authority.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel, a state decision making body which adjudicates on significant developments worth more than $20 million, is expected to decide early next year whether the development is fit for the location.

"75%" of Bangalow residents opposed

Bangalow residents opposed to the controversial development say "75%" of them are against it.

President of the Bangalow Progress Association Tony Hart said residents were calling for a public hearing by the joint planning panel to ensure they understood community concerns in full.

"It gives the community a chance to comment directly," Mr Hart said.

"This is probably the biggest development in Bangalow's history."

Mr Hart said only a year ago Bangalow started to work towards a village plan and most people wanted the village to remain small.

"And suddenly this sort of development comes in which threatens all these aspects of the town," he said.

"The implications of the traffic flow from a development of that size... haven't been well presented or well understood," Mr Hart said.

"They've got 500 carparks... if you've got 500 vehicles going in daily, that's a lot of traffic."

Up to 400 jobs at risk: developer

"We're not wanting to build car parks," said head developer Bart Elias.

"Council is constantly reviewing the carpark policy and we're just following the rules. Council requires that many [500] car parks."

Mr Elias said Council had required him to install 240 car parks in another of his developments, in Byron Bay but "to date that's occupied by about 40%."

Mr Elias said formals studies on traffic impacts from the proposed development showed "satisfactory" results and had been submitted to Council.

Responding to residential concerns about the growth of Bangalow, he said "I don't think the size is an issue".

"It's creating 350 - 400 jobs in the food production and agri-business sector," he said and listed Brookfarm, Salumi Australia and Hemp Foods Australia as examples of Northern Rivers' companies interested in operating from the site.

Mr Elias said he'd heard concerns from residents about impacts on Bangalow's heritage values but they held little relevance considering the "dog's breakfast on the other side of the road", an industrial estate.

"If that doesn't impact on the heritage than our development certainly doesn't either," he said.

"There's a lot of propaganda going around.

"Someone tried to say we had plans for a 1,000 sqm restaurant, I don't think there's any restaurant that big in Australia, it's just a ridiculous claim.

"[The Bangalow Progress Association] is the same group that complains about everything."

Still under assessment: Council

Byron Shire Council sustainable director of environment and economy, Ms Shannon Burt, said the development application for the Bangalow Food Hub was still under assessment by council staff.

"Issues regarding traffic and access to the site from Lismore Rd remain under review and are being discussed with the Roads and Maritime Service," Ms Burt said.

"The application is likely to be reported to the Joint Regional Planning Panel for consideration in the early new year, once outstanding matters have been resolved," she said.

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