Increasing the height and density of Byron Shire’s retail centres, and creating a new industrial estate next to the Bluesfest site are among the ideas being considered by Council to increase employment opportunities in the shire.
The ideas contained in the Draft Byron Shire Employment Land Strategy, commissioned by Council, focus on how to accommodate industrial, retail and commercial growth over the next 20 years.
The plan, which goes on public exhibition on August 9, relates to land zoned for employment within the Byron local government area (LGA). It is based on research that shows the current supply of zoned employment land in the shire is insufficient for the future both in terms of industrial areas and business centres.
‘Delivering employment lands for a sustainable future will require some decisive actions by Council,’ the report states.
This includes ‘improving the utilisation of existing zoned employment land,’ and ‘securing a sustainable long-term supply of suitable employment land’.
Jane Laverty, the head of the NSW Business Chamber’s northern rivers chapter, said Byron was ‘desperate for some more industrial land’.
‘There needs to be enough land for some growth and enabling infrastructure to go with it,’ said Ms Laverty, formerly Byron Shire Council’s economic development and tourism co-ordinator.
‘But it needs to be done in a sustainable way that balances the interests of residents and the environment with the need for growth.’
Sites identified for industrial expansion in the Byron Shire
According to Council’s Byron Shire Employment Land Strategy, lands that could be potentially developed or expanded include the Billinudgel industrial estate and the industrial area in Manns Road, Mullumbimby (to the west of the site).
A new estate to the east of the Gulgan Road interchange at Tyagarah is suggested, as is a new estate on farmland to the west of the Gulgan Road interchange, Tyagarah.
A new estate south of Bangalow Road east of the Pacific Highway is also proposed.
According to the report, the shire’s employment precincts contain about 11.9ha of vacant land that remains available for employment purposes, which would accommodate a significant amount of the projected demand.
However, a large part of this is the proposed industrial estate connected to the controversial West Byron development – a project that many locals hope will never come to fruition.
Even with the addition of West Byron, there will still need to be an additional eight to 12 hectares of land for industrial purposes according to the report.
The authors investigated five separate sites for this land, including sites at Billinudgel, Mullumbimby, Tyagarah and Bangalow.
A number of the proposals are unlikely to be popular with local residents, particularly the idea of building a new industrial estate to the east of the Gulgan Road interchange at Tyagarah, right next to the Bluesfest site.
The report notes that the site is ‘ecologically sensitive’ and includes ‘prime koala habitat’.
It also raises the possibility of expanding into the Bluesfest site ‘in the long-term future’.
The idea of expanding the Manns Road industrial estate in Mullumbimby could also stir local passions, given the flood-prone nature of the land and the fact that some of it is designated as ‘regionally specific farmland’.
Ms Laverty questioned whether all of the new industrial land needed to be in the Byron Shire or whether ‘we can look at the northern rivers as a whole’.
‘Once you concrete over something you never get it back,’ she said. ‘If we take away the need to meet certain quotas in each LGA then… we can let go of the idea that we need to create the jobs in the place where someone lives.
‘We already know that many people are willing to travel 30 to 40 minutes to work in the northern rivers.’
The report also examined the potential to accommodate growth in the region’s existing business centres, stating that this would be needed to accommodate both the need for more jobs and greater retail demands from the shire’s growing population.
The authors recommended that this could be achieved through both the release of additional land around the business centres where possible and the ‘alteration of development controls’.
The strategy suggests that Council consider increasing floor space ratio and height limits in Mullumbimby, Bangalow, Brunswick Heads, Billinudgel and Suffolk Park to the levels currently in place in Byron Bay.
Such changes would have the potential to transform the look and feel of these centres, something recognised by the authors of the report.
‘It is important to retain the character of centres, while still facilitating development and employment opportunity,’ the authors state.
This could be achieved by developing ‘local character statements’ for each area, developed by the community.
The report includes a number of other ideas to facilitate future jobs growth, including repurposing the railway line as an active transport corridor connecting Bangalow to Byron Bay town centre.
Additional supermarkets for Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Byron Bay are proposed as is increased residential density around Brunswick Heads town centre, and planning control incentives for live-work arrangements in Brunswick Heads.