Residents to fight beach retreat plan


CLOSE to 200 of Byron Bay's wealthiest residents yesterday launched a class action against Byron Shire Council.

Members of the Belongil Progress Association yesterday briefed their lawyers to take the council to court over its 'planned retreat' decision this week.

This would let nature take its course, and their multimillion dollar homes too, along the Belongil coastline.

The 'planned retreat' option to deal with the increasing erosion threat along The Belongil and New Brighton coastline was voted in as the council prepares its draft coastline management plan.

Residents argued for sand nourishment to build up the beach and protect their homes, but were knocked back by mayor Cr Jan Barham's casting vote in favour of retreat.

"We have today begun the process of briefing our lawyers to appeal this manifestly fraudulent administrative decision," the association's treasurer/secretary, Sue Campbell, said in a statement issued yesterday.

"We're irate," Ms Campbell said. "We have 150 to 200 people in out association and we are spending all of our energy on this court case."

The residents are also disputing the science behind the council's decision.

"(The council's) own consultants have recommended that other proven hazard management methods be explored first ? equitable methods which aim to nourish the beach and maintain its amenity for the whole community," she said.

Cr Barham said the council had also obtained legal advice before voting for the 'planned retreat' option.

"We have a legal responsibility to prepare for an emergency and ensure public safe- ty," she said.

The mayor disputed claims homes would be bulldozed under the plan, but said older homes not fitting strict design criteria, allowing them to be relocated in the face of an emergency, would either have to be modified or left to fall into the ocean.

"All new homes have to be constructed to council's strict rules about demountability," she said.

"We will conduct an audit at Belongil to confirm all the existing property and get more information to help with the logistics of moving the houses."

The mayor also raised the possibility of an 'acquisition policy', where the council and the State bought the properties and leased them back to their current owners.

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