Feilding must 'look forward, not back'

Feilding has a positive future but it must be as a modern business hub, not a relic of the past, a stakeholder has warned the Manawatu District Council.

Contention over the preservation of heritage buildings reigned in oral submissions to the council's hearings commission on proposed district plan changes.

Focal Point Cinema owner and former deputy mayor Matt Bell spoke at the June 3 hearing on behalf of several property owners who favoured the removal of heritage building restrictions to help development in the town centre.

"Feilding has a positive future. Please see these buildings for what they are - old buildings," he said.

"A CBD should be a vibrant adaptable hub of business activity not an empty static museum display of how the town once looked.

"We want to expand and operate in an attractive, thriving go-ahead town, not one that is dying because it is littered with empty, poorly-maintained old buildings."

He said the first floors of many buildings had been unoccupied for 30 years. "I believe the majority of local people desire the CBD to be attractive, well-maintained, occupied and safe and that the current situation of requiring a resource consent to demolish is inhibiting development," he said.

Feilding Promotion chairman Michael Ford agreed the cost for building owners and tenants over the next 20 years, be it for strengthening, refurbishment, demolition or redevelopment, was enormous.

However, he said Feilding's heritage buildings were the major part of the town's attractiveness. He wanted more Category B buildings to be elevated to a Category A status. Feilding Promotion would advocate that if any building was lost due to an unplanned disaster, the original facade should be retained, he said.

Bell said he was confused by Feilding Promotion's stance.

"Their purpose is to promote and assist the growth and financial sustainability of Feilding. Ironically, their stance on protecting these old buildings will have the opposite effect by making the town look less attractive, stifle some development and make it less safe from falling masonry."

Thirteen submissions were made on District Plan Change 46, including one from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. District Council senior policy planner Deborah Kissick said the hearing commissioners would consider the evidence submitted before making a decision.

Manawatu Standard