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Battle for suburb's future

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014

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An unassuming site on Ponsonby Rd looks set to become the stage for a battle about the suburb's future.

Designs for the site currently occupied by Nosh at 254 Ponsonby Rd were drawn up as part of the Draft Ponsonby Rd Masterplan in July.

Feedback on the plan showed public opinion was divided on whether the site should favour retailers or open space, Waitemata Local Board deputy chairwoman Pippa Coom says.

The design with the least amount of open space was fairly firmly rejected, she says.

When O'Neill St resident Jennifer Ward opened the plan to see the much longed-for park on her street could be replaced by commercial developments, she was horrified.

"The CBD's population has increased by a phenomenal amount and that's without the Unitary Plan intensification - where are these people going to recreate?

"You can't have intensification without amenities - they go hand in hand."

Ms Ward has been collecting signatures for a petition to fight for open space at the site.

"Most people think because it was bought for a park, it is going to be a park.

"People are horrified when they think it might be sold off and developed," she says.

Auckland Council purchased the site in 2006 to provide an urban square in the heart of the Ponsonby business area for community gatherings and events.

The three design concepts include provisions for a large or small open space and combinations of commercial and residential development. The draft plan states the purchase of the site will be offset by a sensible development of the rear portion of the site.

But Western Bays Community Group member Mike Blackburn says "selling off" half of the space to developers to pay for the park isn't a reasonable solution.

"We need this open space.

"They are giving the impression that there will be no money left to develop the park if we don't sell off part of it, but that's not right," he says.

It doesn't have to be a budget blowout, Ms Ward says.

"It's a no-brainer really to keep a space already owned by the council. We've already got it, we don't even have to develop it all at once, it can be done gradually and have input and grow."

Ms Coom says the board is very keen to see some sort of civic space, but there are pros and cons to each of the options.

She says it is important to remember no final decisions have been made and there will be further public consultation.

A report on the Ponsonby Rd draft plan will be on the board's agenda for March.

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- Auckland City Harbour News

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