This March will see the Byron Bay Master Plan go on public display at council. At the same time, the long awaited Butler Street Bypass will be open for public submission until April 1. This means the Byron town centre is on the cusp of a major makeover. Is this a reason to worry or rejoice?
Many will no doubt be fearful our well-loved town could be transformed into a cheap version of Surfers Paradise or sold off to carpet bagging developers from the city. If that happens we will only have ourselves to blame. This process has been a long time in development and there will be no overnight changes without prolonged, and probably exhausting, community consultation.
Currently the Master Plan is at stage four of a five-stage process. Byron Shire Council engaged the landscape architecture and urban design firm McGregor Coxall. Many people in the community have been heavily involved in these discussions and many more attended the numerous public consultation sessions. Stage four involves drafting the master plan. The first three stages were gauging the wishes and preferences of the community, visioning and strategy. This draft plan will come back to the community for more input before deciding on the final plan.
I attended a number of these community consultation events. To me it was a master class in how to involve and harness a group dynamic that can be unruly and chaotic. These people know how to herd cats. As you can see from the process, anyone complaining that they don’t like the outcome will be asked – where have you been?
McGregor Coxall are looking at five focal points: Jonson Street and Railway Park, Butler Street Reserve, Main Beach car park and pool, Clarkes Beach foreshore park, Sandhill’s vacant land (behind the court house). Some of these sites are contentious of course with competing demands and usages. This will need to be managed and facilitated.
I particularly liked some of the quirky outcomes that came up in the discussions. The car park and pool at the top of Jonson St obviously needs some change but many people (surfers) voiced how they needed to drive through the car park to check the swell each morning. That will be kept. Other ideas that can incorporate the railway line so the town is no longer divided down the middle are also good. The Butler Street bypass will allow us to do something that was heavily favoured – get more cars out of the centre of town and more walking streets.
If you are still reading you may be further interested in the “Activate Byron Place-making Seed Funding Project”. Council have a $60,000 grant available to anyone who comes up with good ideas on how to make the town centre more vibrant and active. Application deadline for seed funding has been extended to March 21. Things like food or activity projects in lanes, areas that are underutilised, beautifying bike racks or seating areas are being encouraged. See Byronbayyourplan.com.au for more info.
The verdict is not yet in because the there is still yet nothing to judge. But generally it looks like being something to rejoice over rather than worry about. The process has involved many talented and capable people with a genuine love for Byron Bay. We can only hope it stays on track and delivers worthwhile and beneficial outcomes.