Plan change opens up debate on future use of industrial land

COLIN WILLIAMS
Last updated 11:55 12/12/2012

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Upper Hutt Leader

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Fourteen hectares of empty land off Alexander Rd are unlikely to be developed for zoned industrial use, its owners say.

The 48-lot site, centred around William Durant Dr, has been on the market for more than six years with only five lots sold, none of which have been developed.

The owner, Alexander Road Developments, now wants the land rezoned so it can be used for a residential development of up to 70 lots.

On Wednesday the council approved an application for a private plan change, a move which will involve the land's future being decided by district plan hearings next year.

The council decision to accept the application is a process only and, officially, the authority is taking a neutral position.

"If we allow this, all we are doing is putting in place for it to be notified and all the costs to be borne by the developer," Mayor Wayne Guppy said.

"Not that long ago we debated how this was an important part of the industrial area of the city," he told the committee.

A report from city planning director Richard Harbord says the community "should perceive the council neither supports or opposes the proposal; rather [it] has accepted to process the application which would then follow due public process and decision-making".

All the costs of the plan change process will be carried by the developer. This is appropriate, Mr Harbord says.

"Given that most of the benefits will be to the [developer] rather than there being any significant public good component."

However, council officers have given initial feedback to the developer "and have not been particularly encouraging of the proposal".

"But we have to be careful. This is a process that will end as a decision for councillors."

Their view, included in the application, is that a reduction of 14 hectares of business industrial land "would significantly constrain the future opportunity for industries to be attracted to locate in Upper Hutt, particularly those the council is working to attract that will require large areas of flat land."

The land is also not suitable for residential development due to its isolation from services and facilities, council officers say.

But it is the land's isolation and poor location, particularly from air, water and road connections, which the developer is arguing is its major limitation to industrial development.

Supporting information for the rezoning is unequivocal about the lack of potential for any industrial pick-up.

"Since the initial wave of enquiry in 2006-2007, no further genuine inquiry has been fielded, with the exception of Revera seeking a site for a data centre which has been built on adjoining land," says Mark Hourigan, director of Bayleys Commercial, Industrial and Retail.

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"Given the recessionary times and rising vacancy in established industrial areas [Seaview, Grenada, Petone and Porirua], no demand for industrial land can be expected for the foreseeable future.

"The property is considered to be isolated from transport links, in particular for heavy vehicle movements and other industrial users."

For activities that need good access to the international airport, Wellington port, the State Highway network, and proximity to growth areas, there are better alternative options than Alexander Rd, the application says.

Existing Upper Hutt industry is mostly on sites allowing for expansion, and there are "very few that need to relocate to an alternative site within Upper Hutt such as Alexander Road".

"The historical land take-up rate for new industrial building development in Upper Hutt is very low. . . and there is a ready supply of vacant or under-utilised land in the [city's] urban basin," it says.

In contrast, the developer says there is a strong and sustainable demand for people wanting to buy residential land and "positively contribute to Upper Hutt's community and economy".

In contrast to the council, the developer says the site is well- located for residential use because of its closeness to community facilities and services - and better than other areas the council is promoting.

- Upper Hutt Leader

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