The old hospital site in Byron Bay.
The old hospital site in Byron Bay.

Plans for community hub ‘well advanced’

WITH progress on the draft lease for what will become the Byron Community Hub, another box has been ticked in the plans for the old hospital site in Byron Bay.

Byron Shire Councillors last week voted to make Old Byron Hospital Ltd the head tenant of the Shirley St property, which the council bought from the state government for $1 last year.

Chris Hanley is the chair of Old Byron Hospital Ltd, which has been a product of the Byron Hospital Steering Committee. That group was behind the original project proposal and has continued to spearhead plans to bring a range of services to the site. 

Mr Hanley said the community group and the council had worked hard throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to progress the project.

“It’s a journey and we are well advanced in the journey,” Mr Hanley said.

He said work on plans to repurpose the inside and outside of the building was in the final stages of approvals.

“That is very well progressed,” he said.

“Even more significant”, Mr Hanley said, was the milestone of having the draft head lease go before the council last week.

Still to come is the physical work on the building, and the securing of tenants. A positive sign throughout the process has been the repeated backing of councillors across the board, Mr Hanley said. Last week, the only disagreement between councillors was whether the head lease should be reviewed after three or five years. While their tenants have not been locked in, Mr Hanley said the group had been fielding inquiries across their four target areas of cultural, health, education and community services.

“A lot of the groups that will go in there will be community organisations that will help all sorts of people,” he said.

“If a council and community can create a project that’s (reusing) an old building with such good karma as that hospital, it’s as good as it gets.

“Community-council projects are difficult sometimes in our shire.

“I think this one has shown a lot of people that projects with a community and council collaboration work really well if those doing the collaborating are in the right space.”