Plans to give the old hospital site new life are progressing.
Plans to give the old hospital site new life are progressing.

Plans to bring new life to former hospital site progress

PLANS for the future of the old Byron Hospital site will go back before Byron Shire Council this week.

The council resolved to buy the site from the NSW Health Administration Corporation last May following a proposal from a steering committee to return it to the community and establish the Byron Community Hub.

The site, on the corner of Shirley and Wordsworth streets, is mooted for welfare, social, cultural and educational services which are otherwise lacking in the heart of Byron Bay.

Chris Hanley, who chairs the Byron Hospital Steering Committee, said while those planning processes continue at the council level there’s been “a lot happening” from the community’s end in the past six months, including work to redesign the old hospital building.

The proposed hub will exist “within the existing building footprint”, Mr Hanley said.

The group is meanwhile still getting plenty of inquiries from organisations interested in being part of the Byron Community Hub.

“Everything’s progressing really well,” Mr Hanley said.

“This is a complicated long term project and council and the community have co-operated really well.

“I think at the moment, everyone seems really happy with where we’re up to.

“It’s progressing through all the things we need to do and we haven’t changed our original intention.”

The old Byron Bay Hospital site. Photo: Christian Morrow
The old Byron Bay Hospital site. Photo: Christian Morrow

Mr Hanley said the intention had always been to create a space that would benefit the community.

He said the council’s support and the collaborative nature of the proposal was vital.

“In the Byron Shire, often we can have conflict because people are passionate and they all mean well,” he said.

“If you’re trying to do a project like this and there’s conflict you don’t end up with a good result.”

He said they’d end up with a “better building” and with the community getting “the maximum benefit” through the processes they’ve been following thus far.

He’s hopeful they’ll have enough work done to enable tenants to start occupying space at the site by the end of the year.

Along with education and community facilities, the group hopes to reuse what was the hospital kitchen as a commercial kitchen which would be available for hire.

But some of the uses proposed are not currently allowed on site under current planning measures.

The council has prepared a planning proposal which seeks to allow office premises, light industry (a commercial kitchen) and a restaurant or cafe to operate at the site.

That proposal went on public exhibition from February 19 to March 20 this year after it went through Gateway Determination with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

In a report that will go before the planning meeting on Thursday, council staff have recommended forwarding the planning proposal to the NSW Parliamentary Counsel’s Office.

Staff have also recommended the council liaise with the PCO “to finalise the content of the draft (Local Environmental Plan)”, that the council makes the draft LEP and forwards the plan to the state planning department.

When the proposal was placed on public exhibition, it attracted one public submission and three from agencies, namely Transport for NSW, the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Heritage Division and the NSW Rural Fire Service.

These resulted in one administrative change but no other amendments to the planning proposal.

In their report, the council’s staff said the public submission, which came from a neighbouring landowner, raised no objection with the planning proposal itself but instead raised issues which should be “considered with any redesign and operation of the site to minimise impacts on neighbours”.

It’s understood those issues are being passed on to the steering committee.