Labor calls on Baird to return West Byron development decision to local council

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The NSW Opposition has called on the Baird Government to allow Byron Shire Council to determine the future of the controversial West Byron development proposal.

On a visit to Byron Bay today, Shadow Minister for Planning Luke Foley – joined by Labor Candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner – said it was important that the Coalition relinquish the matter and honour its central pledge before the 2011 election to return planning powers to local communities.

The West Byron mega-development currently awaits imminent approval by Planning Minister Pru Goward as a matter of “state significance”. It would involve the construction of up to 1100 homes on a 108-hectare parcel of land owned by eight developers.

Labor’s concerns about the proposed development include:

• The lack of social and community infrastructure accompanying the new housing, such as schools;
• The serious and unresolved traffic congestion along Ewingsdale Road;
• The serious impact on koala populations; and
• The potential damage to the fragile wetland environment and the Belongil estuary.

Labor’s Byron Bay branch has passed a motion urging that any decision be deferred until these issues are addressed.

"The Baird Government must honour its pledge to return planning powers to local communities by allowing Byron Council to determine the controversial West Byron Development Application," Mr Foley said today.

"Labor believes that the current proposal for the development of West Byron is inappropriate and serious community concerns remain unaddressed.

"For Pru Goward to approve this project down in Sydney would be a complete betrayal of what the Liberals and Nationals promised before the election. A commitment to return planning powers to local communities is meaningless if it does not apply to contested developments like these.

"Today I can confirm that Labor, if elected in March, will return the matter to Byron Council for determination."

Labor Candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner added: "As locals we have one overriding concern. We want to see Byron preserved, not wrecked. If the Baird Government approves this development proposal in its current form, it would change life in our community as we know it."

"High intensity developments such as these must be considered at the Council level, not imperiously decreed by Sydney politicians. Pru Goward needs to put her pen away and remember that this Government promised to return the power to make planning decisions back to local communities.

"Luke Foley's visit is a positive sign that Labor is committed to stand up for the Byron community.”