Playground prisoners seek $100k from Wellington City Council
A couple whose luxury apartment was walled in by a 4m-high playground will seek $100,000 from Wellington City Council after being battered in a legal stoush.
Peter Aitchison and wife Sylvia Aitchison used their retirement fund to fight the council over the structure built on the boundary of their apartment in Roseneath's sought-after Maida Vale Rd.
The council signed off on the playground built by neighbour David Walmsley without demanding resource consent – despite it being 4m tall, 11m long, and blocking the Aitchisons' million-dollar view of Wellington harbour.
The council have insisted their hands are tied over the matter, and have no option but to follow the district plan to the letter.
But the Environment Court ruled the council made a mistake in interpreting the plan when they gave the playground the green light.
According to a valuation the addition of the structure had slashed $900,000 off the value of the Aitchisons' property – which has a QV of $1.6m.
A bare wooden fence can be seen which now completely blocks Peter Aitchison's view.
Peter Aitchison described the case as "horrific", and said it had taken its toll on the pair since the structure was erected in April.
They had even considered taking down the playground themselves, he said.
"We had a team that were going to come round and cut it down. But our lawyer told us not to, which was good advice."
On Wednesday Aitchison said his legal advice was that the court could not award 100 per cent of his costs.
But the pair hoped, given the emphatic result, they would receive the maximum amount allowed under law.
Aitchison said he and his wife had met with the council legal team, head of planning, and chief executive about three months ago, and pleaded to have the decision reversed.
The playground which now blocks the view.
"They said 'No, we're completely within our rights, we'll fight it'. So we had no option but to take them on."
The fence is the third such structure to be erected on the site, with two previous fences taken down following legal challenges.
Dealing with the structure had been "pretty traumatic" and they had even offered to pay Walmsley so that he would take it down, Aitchison said.
"We said to him, 'What do we need to do to make this go away?'."
Multiple attempts to reach Walmsley for comment have been unsuccessful.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council would respond to inquiries on Thursday.
Previously city planning and design manager Warren Ulusele said that while the council understood the impact of the structure on the Aitchisons, it was bound to follow the district plan.
But the court ruled the council had made a mistake when it had decided the boundary between the two properties was at the top of a sloping retaining wall instead of at the bottom.