Becton wins go-ahead for Byron resort

SEVEN years after they bought it, and after a fierce community battle, Melbourne-based development group Becton is ready to make a start on the redevelopment of its Byron Bay Beach Resort site.

The resort closed its doors to guests last Monday week, paving the way for a start on the State Government-approved $51 million first stage of the tourist development which will see 117 holiday homes built.

When completed, the resort will boast 354 holiday homes on the prime 88ha beachfront site 2.2km north of the town.

Resort manager Justin Leith said while he couldn't give a date for a start to the work, the first guests at the new development were expected in early 2010.

Timber cabins at the resort have been sold, but the more permanent cabins will stay on site during construction for workers' accommodation.

Becton bought the site from the troubled Club Med group in 2001 for $12.8 million, a substantial loss for the French-based group which had bought the site for $16 million in 1991.

Club Med had fought a long and bitter battle with the local community over its plans to redevelop the site and Becton became embroiled in a similar fight.

The 'Bugger off Becton' campaign culminated in a big rally at Main Beach televised nationally on the Channel 9 Today show and featuring Australian pop icons Billy Thorpe and Brian Cadd leading the singing of the song What About Me?

But unlike Club Med, Becton won the support of the State Government with Planning Minister Frank Sartor 'calling in' the development application in December 2005 after three years of discussions between the company and Byron Shire Council.

Last August Mr Sartor approved the first stage of the development and said his decision would resolve a great deal of uncertainty around a proposal which had been the subject of a lengthy dispute.

He said the conditions attached to the approval addressed the key concerns of opponents and ensured the project met the highest possible environmental and design standards.

The development could be used only for tourist or occasional accommodation and not for permanent residential purposes, which was a key community concern, he said.

The developer contribution of $400,000 levied by the State Government was harshly criticised by the council, which said it was well short of the expected $2 million-plus that would have been levied by the council.

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