NEW SUBURB: A map showing the total area rezoned in 2014 to make way for a massive new housing estate on Byron Bay's western fringe.
NEW SUBURB: A map showing the total area rezoned in 2014 to make way for a massive new housing estate on Byron Bay's western fringe. Contributed

Massive new development to unleash congestion 'bomb'

A NEW suburb proposed on the outskirts of Byron Bay is threatening to unleash a congestion 'bomb' on the town's already chronic traffic problems, almost doubling the number of cars on Ewingsdale Rd.

But a development manager for one of two proponents of the new West Byron urban land release has argued Byron Bay's traffic problem is "30 years old" and can't be blamed on a single development.

The 659-lot West Byron subdivision is the largest new urban area in Byron Bay for 40 years, and has the potential to grow the town's permanent population by a quarter, from 10,000 to 12,500.

There are currently two development applications on public exhibition with Byron Shire Council which together make up the 108ha site which in 2014 was rezoned for development by the NSW Department of Planning.

The first, owned by listed Queensland developer Villa World, includes a 387-lot subdivision, pedestrian and cycle ways called "Harvest Estate".

It is the second iteration of the DA after the first one, lodged in June, was significantly revised.

The Villa World DA is on exhibition until February 7.


"HARVEST ESTATE": Queensland residential developer Villa World is planning a 387-lot subdivision off Ewingsdale Rd. Contributed

The second DA, owned by a group of local landowners known as the West Byron Landowners' Association, was lodged with Byron Shire Council in November and is on display until February 21.

It includes a further 272 lots, many of them so-called "super lots" to be further subdivided by buyers into medium density townhouses.

It also includes an area nominated for a neighbourhood centre, community garden, and off-road cycleways.

Traffic modelling for the estate by the proponents indicates they will add an extra 14,000 traffic movements per day on Ewingsdale Rd, adding 70% more traffic to the congested western entrance into Byron Bay which already suffers in peak times with 20,000 cars per day.

Under the 2014 agreement to rezone of the land, developers were to contribute $7000 per lot toward the upcoming Butler St bypass and planned works to double the number of lanes on Ewingsdale Rd from two to four.

Despite these contributions, Byron Residents' Group spokesman Dailan Pugh has labelled the expected traffic impact a "nightmare" and said the rezoning had been approved on "false pretences" because original traffic estimates were "grossly understated".

"It originally got approval for rezoning on the basis of 6000 traffic movements and now their assessment by the same consultant is that it will be just over 14,000 traffic movements a day," he said.

"The amount of traffic coming in on Ewingsdale Rd is already increasing dramatically.

"It's just going to be a nightmare."

Mr Pugh has raised several other concerns about the development, including the "massive visual impost" of a 4m sound wall along the southern side of Ewingsdale Rd sitting on 2m of landfill.

The development would also impact two populations of the Wallum Sedge frog, a nationally vulnerable frog, and a koala habitat corridor which could cut off southern range of the the 240-strong Byron Shire koala population.

Mr Pugh said the development needed to be scaled back "considerably" to protect the environmental values and reduce the impact on Ewingsdale Rd.

He also raised questions about the use of "super lots" which he claimed were "deliberately vague and ambiguous about what is intended on the larger lots, and their development potential."

But development manager Stuart Murray, speaking on behalf of the West Byron landowners' proposal, said the use of super lots destined for medium density townhouses and units would ensure a better outcome for the visual amenity of the development.

"Super lots are a good outcome," he said.

"Each owner will create their own little character for their own subdivision, and that's a nice mix."


WEST BYRON: Lots earmarked in one of two  planned subdivision off Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay.
WEST BYRON: Lots earmarked in one of two planned subdivision off Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay. Contributed

Mr Murray said Byron Shire Council would also get a better chance to assess each of the medium density subdivisions on its individual merits, with more focus on the "built form".

"We put a lot of effort into the landscaping, and the community garden idea, and into cycleways and pedestrian use," he said.

"What we're encouraging is people to get on their bikes and get on their feet."

That included off-road cycleways which connected up more directly with the Byron Bay town centre via Ewingsdale Rd, as well as a neighbourhood centre which Mr Murray said would ideally have its own local character.

"I think we've tried to produce the best product we can, which is focused on the people who are going to live there."

He said the West Byron landowners were long-term locals who would still be living in the town and cared about its future.

"They're not going to build something which is bloody awful," he said.

But regardless of good intentions, the controversial development is set to be challenged by those existing residents of Byron Bay who don't want to see large-scale urban development on their western fringe.

The fate of the two development applications will ultimately be decided by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.

Byron Shire Council staff will lodge their own independent submission to the JRRP on both proposals, while Byron Shire councillors will also have the opportunity to lodge a separate submission on the two proposals.

All public submissions will also be included in the final submission to the JRRP.

Villa World was contacted for comment but did not return calls.

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