Mayor gives a little ground

OCEAN Shores residents have gained an unexpected ally in their long-running sports fields campaign – Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham.

The Greens member, previously criticised for helping to “lock up” the Lot 107 sports field site into a nature reserve in 2006, is now offering to compromise her environmental ideals to meet some community needs.

At this week's Byron Shire Council meeting, she put forward a proposal for a two-staged development that would extend the existing New Brighton Oval into a full-size soccer field with amenity block, and provide the possibility of netball, tennis and volleyball courts in the future.

Cr Barham admitted she had gone through “a lot of angst” to arrive at her position, since much of the land surrounding the oval is regarded as environmentally sensitive, but she was willing to sacrifice a small portion of it for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the community.

“It's not perfect, but for the moment, it's the best we can get,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to meet human needs as well, and we've done a great job on ecology needs already.”

Councillors voted to prepare a development application for the proposal, which will then have to be approved by the owner, the Department of Lands.

The President of the Ocean Shores Soccer Club, Mark Patten, cautiously welcomed the decision.

Mr Patten has spent many years lobbying for improvements to the field, which is too small for senior teams and lacks changing sheds, forcing players to get changed in the open.

“It's a maybe on a maybe on a maybe, but it's better than nothing,” he said.

“There's really no alternative. If they don't act on this site, there's nothing left, because they've locked up or sold every other available piece of land.”

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