CONTROVERSIAL: Artist impressions of the 9 Station St, Bangalow development.
CONTROVERSIAL: Artist impressions of the 9 Station St, Bangalow development. Archimages Architecture

Losing that village feeling in Bangalow

HEATED debate about just how we see village life on the Northern Rivers continues to surround a proposal for a Bangalow development.

Objectors say approval of the $4.2 million, two-storey residential and retail building at 9 Station St will impact negatively on the community and the village feel of the small town.

They are also concerned it will set the precedent for further, large-scale development in the street.

Submissions on the development close tomorrow.

The developer says the proposal meets all the council requirements and is totally permissible under current planning laws.

This is the second time the plans have been submitted after they were rejected by the council in April 2013, primarily on the grounds the development was out of keeping with Bangalow's style and because of bulk and scale.

The site is within the Bangalow Heritage Precinct.

Project co-ordinator and town planner Paul De Fina, who is acting for Sydney and Newrybar resident and developer Robert Dunnett, said the plan that was now before council was a totally new application.

"The owner, Gordon Highlands Pty Ltd, accepted council's decision and asked that we design a building that would be more acceptable to the local community and the council," Mr De Fina said.

"Since then, two meetings had been held with the community representatives including those from the local Chamber of Commerce and the Progress Association as well as heritage representatives."

He said changes to the original plans reflected their input - "the floor space is smaller and we have lowered the building's height" - and that "the developer has consulted more than adequately with the community".

The developer had also worked with the architect to ensure the bulk, scale and appearance of the development had regard to the site's setting and responded to the heritage value of the area, said Mr De Fina.

However, former Byron Shire councillor and Bangalow resident Jenny Coman said the main changes to the proposal were "largely cosmetic".

The actual building was basically unchanged, such as the same footprint and much the same bulk and scale, she said.

"They have taken off the third story but added little attic rooms."

Mrs Coman said many in the small community were also concerned about extra traffic created by the development as well as the impact that it would have on use of both the A&I Hall and the showground.

The local P&C has previously expressed concern about child safety with increased car use in the street and lane. A 21-space underground car park is planned, with an additional two driveway spaces.

Bangalow Chamber of Commerce member Eva Heath said that although objectors did not want to deter development they did want to encourage development that fitted the character of the area.

While she acknowledged some key issues had been addressed, she said the size of the development was still a problem.

Mrs Heath said: "Bangalow is so special because it doesn't have this sort of development. Once this building goes ahead, it's the green light for anyone else in Station St.

"This is inner city living brought to a quaint little village."

Mr De Fina said he was discouraged by the response to the development proposal by some members of the community.

He said he had received plenty of positive responses aside from objectors.

"People don't like it because it's new. But we have already had one of the biggest businesses in town say they want to go in there."

Mr De Fina added that the residential units, that had a lift from the ground floor, would be ideal for the aged and people with disabilities who wanted easy access to living accommodation and local facilities.

He was unable to say what the likely market price would be.

Byron Shire Council's executive manager of planning Ray Darney said: "At this stage of assessment, the application is generally consistent with Bangalow's development control plan (DCP) requirements, except for parking."

He said the DCP for Bangalow was the most comprehensive of any DCP chapter for Byron Shire towns and villages because of its importance from a heritage perspective.

"There are guidelines in the DCP aimed at preserving the heritage values of Bangalow village. However, the DCP chapter notes that Bangalow has 'an unusual, yet impressive scale to the commercial buildings."

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