Rest home extention irks residents

BY ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 11:35 29/01/2013

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A David and Goliath-type battle to prevent an extension to Whitby Rest Home and Hospital has been lost by the self-described "Davids", those living in the shadow of the planned building.

The rest home, run by Tauranga-based company Bupa, has been granted approval by Porirua City Council to build a 29-bed hospital wing on 4 and 4a Observatory Close.

The new building will vary in height between 4.8 and 7.95m, and will measure 920sqm. Staff numbers will increase from 22 to 35. The project fails to meet criteria for suburban developments in Porirua's District Plan, so its merits were considered at a judicial hearing last November, and approval was granted last week.

The hearing panel chairwoman, city councillor Sue Dow, acknowledges that under the District Plan Bupa should have to provide 177 car parks for a building of the size it was planning. It will provide 21.

The rest home's buildings will also exceed its maximum site allowance by 3242sqm.

But the panel was satisfied the visual impact on the building would have minor effects on its residential neighbours, especially once plants were in place to soften its appearance.

Also, providing beds for older members of the community was a positive effect of the project, the panel said.

The project received five objections from neighbours who were concerned about the project's size and appearance, the lack of parking and increased traffic, noise during construction and the effect on property values.

Three objectors are considering an appeal to the Environment Court.

Plumber Neville Glennie, who built his house with wife Joyce four years ago, said their retirement plans have been ruined by the extension.

"We're going to lose money on our property," he said. "I retire in five years. I bought this land as an investment for myself, to sell in five years and move into a smaller house. That's kind of ruined now because of this eyesore next to us."

The new building will loom above their back garden, destroying their privacy, Mr Glennie said.

"It's just going to be so overbearing. If they down-sized it quite a lot we'd be happy with it."

Objectors were given just five days to prepare for November's hearing, and lacked the money and expertise to take on Bupa, Mr Glennie said.

"We were like the little boys against all these people from Tauranga with all these solicitors and engineers. We're just average people, we haven't got experts. Normal people like us haven't got a dog's show against these people, they've got so much money."

Fellow Antipodes Ln resident Mike Fox is furious a building which breaches so many District Plan rules has been allowed.

He built his house four years ago on the understanding there would be houses on neighbouring sections.

"I don't believe the District Plan provides any protection to the residents of Porirua City," he said. "They've bent all the rules to allow this."

Bupa declined to comment to Kapi-Mana News until the three- week appeal period finishes.

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