Council over-ruled in subdivision bid

Independent planning commissioners have criticised Palmerston North City Council for its opposition to the proposed Hartwell subdivision at the top of Kelvin Grove Rd.

The commissioners have granted consent for the 56-lot rural-residential development, which they said would be "well designed and attractive", despite council advice to turn it down.

Their decision comes 14 months after a hearing held last August, which has been followed by an ongoing exchange of papers about conditions to satisfy objectors to the development.

For owners Craig and Jill Hart, reaching this point has taken six years of wrangling with the council, has cost a small fortune, and they are still waiting for the appeal period to run out at the end of next week before celebrating.

There is one outstanding objection from absent neighbouring landlords Kevin and Clare Burgess.

The Harts bought the 39-hectare property beyond "the five dips" on Kelvin Grove Rd in 2003.

They shelved an early plan to subdivide into 33 lots, and applied for resource consent in 2010 for a 60-lot development.

"We genuinely wanted to do something better," said Mr Hart.

The land was "scruffy", wet in winter, dry in summer, and of little productive value.

They have planted more than 17,000 native and exotic trees in line with their vision to create a self-contained, park-like residential development with shared open spaces, limited internal fencing, and manageable-sized sections.

However, city planner David Murphy and senior policy planner Cynthia Ward told the hearing it would be "an inappropriate pocket of urban development in an inappropriate location".

The commissioners disagreed: "It will result in a well-designed and attractive rural-residential subdivision."

They said the proposed clustered layout was a more effective and efficient use of scarce rural-residential land than the typical 1ha layout that is contemplated by the city's District Plan.

It aligned well with the council's rural residential land-use strategy, they said.

The Harts have applied for and been granted resource consents that ensure stormwater and wastewater can be managed on site.

One council concern was that if the Harts could not come up with a system of communal sewage disposal, the council would be expected to extend its pipes an extra 2.3km to service the properties. The council then raised objections to the concept of allowing private sewerage scheme pipes to be laid in roads within the subdivision that would be publicly vested in the council.

The commissioners were not impressed, as that difficulty had not been mentioned in initial evidence.

"We record our disappointment with the late raising of this matter by PNCC officers, and their apparent unwillingness to explore constructive solutions in spite of our conclusion that the application merited a grant of consent."

The resolution would be granting an easement over the roads in favour of the privately-owned services.

"We fervently trust that the officers will give effect to our decision in this regard," the commissioners said.

They have applied conditions on the consent to reduce the likelihood of new residential neighbours complaining about farming activities. Those conditions include fencing, screening and a buffer zone against the boundary.

Manawatu Standard