Heritage rules submissions made

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 22/08/2014

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Moves to better protect Palmerston North's heritage buildings are forging ahead despite arguments that proposed changes to the District Plan should be delayed.

A hearing on Proposed Plan Change 13, the natural and cultural heritage section of the plan, began in the city yesterday.

Of the 25 original submitters, three have asked that it be withdrawn or at least put on hold.

The key concern was about heritage buildings assessed as earthquake prone, with the rules and time frames about sorting those issues still to be set down in government regulations.

But council policy planner Matthew Mackay said the wider context did not detract from the fact the provisions were 10 years old and due for review.

Withdrawal or delay was not an appropriate response, he said.

Several submitters complained the tighter controls on changes to heritage buildings would be costly, especially when building modifications were likely to be required to improve earthquake resilience.

Mountain Productions director John Browning, whose company owns the old Cosmopolitan Club building on the corner of Taonui and Cuba streets, said the impact of the heritage changes, earthquake rules and a slow economy were already having an adverse effect on business.

He estimated it would cost up to $100,000 to gather evidence to support an application for consent to demolish a significant heritage building. "I believe the majority of owners in the [northwestern] heritage precinct with earthquake-prone and heritage buildings are just waiting out the 15- to 25-year time frame until they are forced to demolish under the Building Act."

Browning said building owners could not afford to wait to make decisions about buildings that were becoming increasingly difficult to tenant.

"I am literally running out of time," he said.

The extra council rules and costs likely to be imposed as a result of changes to the heritage section of the plan would compound the problems.

He and other submitters are calling for the council to provide more money to help building owners meet the dual demands of earthquake strengthening and heritage protection.

Browning said he felt strongly about the value of maintaining and enhancing character buildings, but there would have to be compromise.

As part of the value of retaining heritage buildings was in the "public good", it would be only fair that public money be available to help meet the costs, he said.

Mackay acknowledged the changes to the plan were likely to result in greater calls on the council's modest heritage incentive fund.

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However, it was outside the commissioners' scope to consider that.

Development of a city council heritage strategy has been proposed, and there could be recommendations to next year's review of the Long Term Plan to have money earmarked to assist heritage preservation.

The plan change proposes the addition of 22 buildings to the schedule of cultural and natural heritage - seven already listed by Heritage New Zealand, and another 15 representing aspects of the city's residential heritage.

The list of notable trees proposed the inclusion of 19 more specimens or groups of trees, and the removal of 12 because they had already died or been felled or because they were in poor health.

- Manawatu Standard

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