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Strand stand-off

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 08:27 15/11/2012
strand

BEACHFRONT: Looking back from The Strand the proposal has hospitality sites that flow through to an inner courtyard.

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Secret plans to realign The Strand will leave Takapuna looking the same in 50 years if they go ahead, look the same in 50 years if secret council plans to realign The Strand go ahead, major Hurstmere Rd landowner John Copson says.

Mr Copson proposes a $250 million mixed use development on his one-hectare Hurstmere Rd site which he believes will be the "swing change" that starts turning Takapuna to the beach.

But the proposal hit a brick wall when Auckland Council planning officers refused to budge on the little publicised "Strand realignment" project which would cut through Mr Copson's development site making it uneconomical to develo.

The council's city transformation team is not publicly releasing details of the proposal, which would see The Strand realigned to run parallel to Hurstmere Rd, until next March.

Its transformation manager John Dunshea, told the North Shore Times last month that the team is talking with three landowners over the acquisition of land needed for the project.

Mr Copson says there have been several meetings with council planning teams but the consultation process is just for show.

"They come and tell us what they want to do and they call that consultation.

"Those who have been properly consulted are the ones who this plan suits."

The Wiltshire Property Group has been in negotiations with the council which is believed to be buying the Colmar Brunton building owned by the group as part of the realignment project.

Council officers will not confirm this aspect of the plan due to commercial sensitivity.

But a figure of $16.221m for North Shore land acquisitions is in the 2013-14 Long Term Plan.

Details are also being kept from Mr Copson and his team.

"For us the story is only half told, there is a lot of secrecy," he says.

Mr Copson says he's baffled that the council would compromise a privately funded development which he says fits within local goals of turning Takapuna towards the beach and Auckland-wide plans to of providing more housing.

"I'm really having a problem reconciling the council's thought process here."

Council senior planners Roger Blakeley and Penny Pirrit gave support to the plan earlier this year, Mr Copson says.

"But at a more local level within the planning department there is fixation with a particular plan and there is certainly no compromise."

Mr Copson says he does not reject the council's aspirations to create more reserve land in the area and is prepared to work collaboratively with it. "If everyone sat down with an open mind we could all nut it out in a few weeks, that's the sad thing."

Mr Copson says he'll never sell his land which houses the Autosure building, Crown Centre and car parking. He says he's been threatened with the Public Works Act through which the council could designate his land as road and force him to sell. But if this happens he won't hesitate to take it up with the Environment Court, he says .

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