A key plank in Massey University's super-campus proposal has won the support of environmental commissioners.
The university is celebrating a planning decision that will give it flexibility to add shops to its Turitea campus and offices at Hokowhitu.
It will be allowed to develop up to 2000 square metres of retail space at Turitea, and up to 5000sqm of non-ancillary office space at Hokowhitu, former home to its college of education.
Palmerston North City Council planners and consultants had opposed the rule changes because of the potential to draw commercial and retail activities away from the heart of the central business district.
But resource management commissioners have issued a decision on the review of the institutional zone section of the District Plan that enables Massey to consider the developments in future.
The commissioners said they acknowledged the importance of enhancing the role of the city centre as the main focus for retail, office, commercial and cultural activities.
They did not accept it was likely the Massey provisions would undermine that role.
The university would still have to apply for resource consents for office developments, which would be considered on a restricted discretionary basis.
That process would ensure the positive and negative effects of particular plans would be assessed before they could go ahead.
The commissioners said Massey was critically important to the community, and should be able to run its business without interference, as far as was reasonably possible.
"Enabling its continued success should be a key aspect of planning for the institutional zone."
They said Massey was working in a context where it was being encouraged to be more flexible and strategic, and to develop strong links with industry, community, schools and the global economy. They encouraged Massey to work with the council if it wanted to explore the development of business activities that had not been foreseen.
University spokesman James Gardiner said the decision was welcome.
"In relation to the Turitea site, this enables us to move ahead with more certainty with the integrated super-campus proposal with our partners in FoodHQ.
"We expect to see significant development of the campus as part of this initiative, with hundreds of new jobs created over the next 20 years."
Gardiner said the development would create the need for more commercial activity on campus to create a better working and learning environment, and help to attract a high calibre of staff to the city.
For the Hokowhitu site, the ability to attract a wider range of potential tenants seeking general office premises enabled Massey to make the greatest use of the site, freeing up resources to invest in education.
Gardiner said the university's 10-year planning forecast meant it was important to get the changes in place now.
"Both changes will have a positive overall impact on the city, including the CBD, and the region," he said.
- Manawatu Standard
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