Govt steps in on Becton

By MEGAN KINNINMENT and MARY MANN

THREE years of bickering over an $80-million tourism development at Belongil Beach ended yesterday when the NSW Planning Minister announced he was taking control of the site.

The decision means the Government has final say over what is built on the former Club Med site, rather than the Byron Shire Council.

Planning Minister Frank Sartor's decision yesterday to 'call-in' the proposed development follows three years of fighting between Byron Shire Council, conserva- tionists and the Melbourne developers, Becton, over Becton's plans to build a holiday house subdivision on the 88.6 hectare former Club Med site.

Disputes involving conservationists, the council and developers have plagued the site since the previous owner, Club Med, first proposed an exclusive resort on the environmentally sensitive site in 1993.

Community backlash at Becton's initial proposal to build 379 designer homes on the site gained national attention in 2003 when high-profile Belongil property owner, Crocodile Dundee producer John Cornell, staged a massive media campaign against the plan.

Protracted mediation sessions followed, and failed, with Byron Shire Council then voting through a development control plan designed to restrict the number of homes which could be built on the land and introducing strict environmental buffer-zones.

In September this year, Mr Sartor visited the site, meeting with Byron Shire councillors after having previously met with the developers.

He urged all parties to resolve their differences over the density of the development and the environmental impacts it would have on the sensitive wetlands site.

However, Mr Sartor yesterday announced he had had enough.

"It has been bogged down in dispute, negotiation and court action for three years. All the stakeholders involved deserve a decision, one way or another," Mr Sartor said.

Mr Sartor yesterday encouraged the council and the community to make submissions on the current development application ? a 290-room subdivision and tourism complex proposed by Becton.

Byron mayor Jan Barham said she was surprised to see the Minister claiming he was 'required' to 'call-in' the development.

"It is his call to take control, but to claim it required him to do so, it's not the case," she said.

"I call on the Minister to make any legal advice he based this

interpretation on available."

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