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Airspace Policy still up in the air

Changes to Byron Shire Council’s Airspace Policy have been deferred until additional consultation has been undertaken with businesses to ensure that it is appropriately targeted and affordable.  

The Byron Shire Council Airspace Policy was first adopted back in 2010 and was created to formalise airspace leases from the 1990s. It focused on businesses which have a balcony that had been built over a public footpath and are being used for commercial gain; plus structures over roads, such as the North Byron Parklands road tunnel.

The amended policy aims to change the complicated approval process for new commercial premises that choose to build over public land from the current Local Government Act process to a simpler process available under the Roads Act.  Council considers the proposed change to be a less expensive and simpler process for property owners.

The Airspace Policy allows Council to charge a fee when the structure is enabling profiting from the use of the public space – similar arrangements have been in place in many council areas across NSW for many years and are broadly accepted.

Mayor Simon Richardson said currently the policy is being applied to some existing commercial buildings in Byron Bay and the updated policy is proposed to extend its application to new commercial buildings within the Shire which have chosen to build over the public domain.  

“There are not many properties that the policy would impact as the majority of buildings with balconies are not hosting commercial businesses within that space. For example, it would not apply to the CWA building in Bangalow as no commercial business occurs on the upstairs balcony,” he noted.

Mayor Richardson also reaffirmed that it’s not a ‘new’ idea to charge for the use of public airspace and the proposed changes are in line with other councils in NSW.

“What we recognised yesterday was that there is quite a deal of confusion as to what the intention of the revised policy is and how and when it would apply. Council needs additional discussion with potentially impacted business owners to explain its approach and clarify its application.”

“Council reiterates that the policy only applies to commercial use of balconies built over public footpaths or roadways and those balconies that are not used in this way will not be captured

“Balconies and awnings help provide valuable shade and can improve streetscape aesthetics and Council in no way wants to compromise this,” he said.

The purpose of the Airspace Policy is to ensure that Council controlled road airspace is managed effectively. Specific concerns are:

  • Ensuring structures over Council footpaths are safe and properly constructed
  • Ensuring structures over Council footpaths are properly maintained and remain aesthetically pleasing
  • Minimising Council’s public liability risk
  • Ensuring that those who wish to profit from the use of public space, pay for that privilege
  • Providing guidance to property owners considering erecting structures over footpaths
  • Ensuring consistency in approvals

Media contact:

Media Communication Officer
Byron Shire Council
Ph: 02 6626 7320

Byron Shire is located at Australia's eastern-most point with a population of almost 29,000. It is a thriving community where residents and visitors live, work and play in a sustainable environment and where Council strives to deliver the highest standard of local government services and infrastructure.