Ashhurst public 'wanted a say'

Palmerston North has been blamed for inflicting city thinking on Ashhurst Village, again, with plans to cut the size of its "eclectic" shopping centre.

Ashhurst Action group spokesman Harvey Jones said village residents at a community meeting this week were disappointed to have missed out on a chance to have their say on the changes considered at a planning hearing last week.

The city council's failure to let Ashhurst residents know what was going on was reminiscent of proposed changes to the Animals and Bees Bylaw last year when Ashhurst mounted a tide of opposition to restrictive rules about keeping stock, bees and poultry - forcing a rethink by the council.

The commissioners' hearing on Palmerston North's local business zone has been closed, and there is no further opportunity for new evidence to be presented or considered before the panel makes a decision.

The proposal includes rezoning about 20 central Ashhurst properties from local business zone to residential, including a handful of properties in the main street of Cambridge Ave.

The affected property owners and their neighbours were individually notified, and the scope of the plan change on local business zones throughout the city was publicly advertised.

Policy planner Daniel Batley said council staff had made an assessment about notifying affected parties in line with the Resource Management Act.

"We went as wide as we thought the effects were spread."

But Mr Jones said people did not have time to trawl through screeds of paper involved in plan changes, just in case there was something there that affected them.

"The rest of Ashhurst did not know what was happening."

He said councillors and council staff attended regular meetings in the town that provided opportunities to inform people about what was coming up that might affect them.

"It was a slip-up. The council should have done more."

Mr Jones said Ashhurst people had ideas about what sort of town centre they wanted. If the power lines were ever put underground, for example, they wanted to do some landscaping.

The council's case is that there is unlikely to be growing demand for convenience shopping in Ashhurst, and it is best to keep the commercial area compact.

Two property owners, Stu Kidby and Bruce Roberts, did make submissions.

Mr Roberts said Ashhurst had developed a central streetscape that was "not precinct shopping, but eclectic and interesting".

It was all part of "the essential character that is Ashhurst", he said.

Mr Roberts said there should have been more consultation before the plan change was proposed.

Hearing chairman, independent commissioner Chris Mitchell, said at the hearing he was surprised not to have had more evidence about Ashhurst people's aspirations for the town.

The commissioners are yet to release their decision.

Manawatu Standard