Plans for Green Gables village shelved

Last updated 13:13 13/11/2008

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Troubled economic times are behind a decision to shelve plans for a multimillion-dollar expansion of Green Gables village in Nelson.

Qualcare Holdings has delayed its resource consent application with the Nelson City Council until further notice, weeks before a two-day hearing was scheduled.

The decision was purely an economic one, said Geoff Hipkins, who heads the company that owns Green Gables.

Qualcare wanted to expand the city's oldest resthome in Bridge St to 73 residential apartments and 50 "care facility" beds from its current 30 resthome beds and 21 hospital beds.

A hearing was set for December 9 and 10, after the application attracted seven submissions, one of which was on behalf of 111 objectors. The city council said six submissions opposed the development and one offered conditional support.

The proposal to build up to four storeys high triggered an angry response from nearby property owners, many of whom joined a lobby group, Save Our Suburb, set up to fight the plan.

Lobby group leader Cynthia McConville said on Wednesday she was happy with Qualcare's decision for now, but would remain ready to address a further application if it was presented to the council.

Mr Hipkins, who is chief executive of the Oceania Group, which owns the Qualcare Group, said it was too early to say when it might re-apply for consent but, like all companies, "we're just having a good look at the wider economic conditions and the potential impact from what might happen next year".

He said the Green Gables project was one of a number in its stable that had been placed on hold. The group has 63 resthomes throughout the country.

Mr Hipkins indicated that delays now could mean a smoother road later if the National Party's pre-election suggestions to alter the Resource Management Act came to fruition now it had been elected the Government.

Prime minister-designate John Key has pledged to reform the RMA to make it more efficient for businesses.

"The decision is purely economic, but we were very heartened by some of the pre-election comment over the RMA," said Mr Hipkins. He said he had spoken with Mr Key about it before the election.

Ms McConville said it was now her intention to raise the matter with Nelson MP Nick Smith.

"Even if there are changes to the act, a development like this still has to be addressed through the Nelson Resource Management Plan," Ms McConville said.

The tougher financial climate has also slowed development of the Gracefield Living resort under construction in Stoke, which has been created through a collaboration of Nelson investors and LifeCare Solutions Ltd.

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Lifecare Solutions director John Ward said development of the $85 million resort had slowed to match a slump in demand, as people who had expressed interest in moving into the village were having difficulty selling their homes.

"We are on track, but it has slowed down. The prognosis for the future is good but we just have to get past this slow time," Mr Ward said.

Centre manager Bruce Fleming said 10 homes in the planned 227-home Gracefield development were now completed, or close to completion, and two were occupied.

The Ernest Rutherford Retirement Village, developed in Stoke by Ryman Healthcare, was still experiencing healthy sales, chief executive Simon Challies said.

It had sold 55 townhouses, with another 15 to 20 nearing completion and about to be released for sale.

Of the 39 serviced apartments built, eight remained for sale, and 40 people now occupied the complex's hospital. Plans to expand the hospital and new dementia care unit remained on track for opening in early January, Mr Challies said.

Development of the $18 million, 69-unit Brown Acre lifestyle village in Motueka had not moved as quickly as expected, mainly due to the lack of resolution on planning issues, Wellington developer John Welch said.

He said the economic downturn had not stopped plans to proceed.

- Nelson

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