In last month’s newsletter, we talked about Byron Shire’s Draft Residential Settlement Strategy. This month let’s talk about the Mullumbimby Masterplan. It is worthwhile noting that the Mullum Master Plan is part of a suite of planning documents currently in process with the Byron Council. The others include the Byron and Bangalow Master Plans, the Draft Employment Lands Strategy, and the Multiuse Rail Corridor proposal.
These are all sizable proposals that will be an influence on what sort of shire we want to live in the coming years. Anyone who cares or is vocal around these issues should engage in a balanced debate about the actual policies. This is why we are presenting a series of discussion articles about the draft strategies here. These are templates only, to encourage debate and discussion within the community.
I put myself forward as one of the twelve volunteers and three councillors who formed the Reference Group providing community consultation for the Mullumbimby Master Plan. Chaired by Cr Basil Cameron, we met regularly for more than a year and guided by staff planners and councillors, we heard presentations from various experts. The experience was mostly collaborative, genial and cohesive. The only ongoing complaint was that our original brief was too narrow and had to be continually expanded. With issues so interconnected, it was difficult to separate them into discrete matters for discussion.
The public has until 15th November to comment. If you live in and around Mullum and care about the direction of the town, have a look and make a comment. For those unable to do so, here is a quick overview:
The first half consists of motherhood statements about what a great place Mullum is. Unique character, history of independence, and self-determination, etc – all reinforcing what a great place it is to live. This, of course, helps explain the ever-increasing demand for owner-occupied homes and rentals in the area. However, many established residents do not want ever more newcomers and do not want the town to change – much.
How to reconcile these conflicting demands?
The Vision Thing
Councillor Cameron, chair of the MMPRG, hopes the community will focus on the future vision for the town. He stresses that the character and unique flavour of Mullum needs to preserved and that it can be maintained with the right kind of development.
He says: ‘An access study for the town was a key driver in putting forward the green spine along Stuart Street and reducing traffic on the Main Street (Burringbar St) so it is more pedestrian-friendly. It is about how we activate the town and bring together different parts to help keep people here to live work and play.’
Two main options
Council is looking at two options to alleviate the high level of housing stress:
- Infill development allowing property owners to add studios, or create dual occupancies or to subdivide a single lot – especially when the lot is over 800 M2 and has a back lane.
- Rezoning a few large acreage lots for mixed-use residential – now known as Mullum South. This is the land to the south of Argyle St and Anne St, on both sides of the railway line, the council-owned land known as Lot 22, and the lot behind the Rural Co-op to the east of Jubilee Avenue/Coolamon Scenic Drive.
The Mullum South proposal is already getting flack since most of this land is within the 100-year flood zone. Cr Cameron explains that flooding concerns are being considered and it will not proceed unless it passes the tests and outcomes in the North Byron Risk Plain Management Plan currently underway.
Any dwelling constructed there will have to have floor levels well above the minimum required by the existing Development Control Plan. These floor levels will be higher than many existing dwellings in Mullum town. Indeed, it could be that developing this area and de-silting nearby creeks and waterways will help reduce flooding in the future.
This is popular with council and state governments as it provides more housing stock with minimal investment in infrastructure. Planners also like it – medium density housing with easy access to parks and open areas is the modern lifestyle choice. The days of the quarter-acre block are over. This has been the case in Mullum for some time. But there are still plenty of empty back yards. Locals also have a lot of affection for the funky back lanes and don’t want to see them busy or even sealed.
One of our problems is the state government attempt to introduce statewide compliant development regulations around Manor Houses, Multiple Occupancy Houses, and Terraces Houses. Cutting so-called red tape to more easily increase housing stock sounds like a good idea, But rolling out ‘manor houses’ (3 or 4 units on a standard residential block) has the potential to completely transform the character of the town. Byron Council should be supported in resisting this. Submissions for this close on November 8 and you can contact the council on 6626 7315 to register your disapproval.
The Mullum South rezoning is a part of the long-term plan to create two bypasses to divert traffic away from Burringbar St. One bypass would veer south before the railway line, before meeting up with Fern Lane and on to Jubilee Terrace with (one day) a roundabout at the Left Bank Road intersection in front of the Rural Coop. The other bypass would take traffic to the north, past Woolies, up Tincogan St and out along Main Arm Road. This would require the give way signs on Dalley Street to be reversed, with through traffic running east-west instead of north-south as it is now.
These two bypasses can then free up the main street of Mullum – Burringbar St – to be pedestrian-friendly. Only a small amount of vehicle traffic would be allowed. The footpaths would be widened to encourage more meeting and stopping places – a Talking Street.
The other major change will include the old Mullum Hospital site. The asbestos-heavy hospital buildings have been demolished and the site is now empty. There is a three-stage proposal for the area. 1. The old hospital land ran west all the way up the hill to Reservoir Street, beside Coolamon Villa, the existing aged care facility. This will be sold off or developed. 2. The proceeds will provide the funds to build some much-needed social infrastructure for community needs on half the remaining area. 3. The remaining third will be a mix of low cost/affordable housing, aged care, etc.
View the master plan here