Plans for upgrade splits Witt, residents

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 11:20 20/06/2014

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A controversial street upgrade beside the Witt campus will go ahead, but the process has exposed a growing rift between Witt and its neighbours.

The New Plymouth District Council has given its seal of approval to the $260,000 upgrade of Bell St this week, despite residents' fears that it will turn the street into a grand entranceway for the polytech.

Bell St resident Jayne Barnett spoke to the council and said the proposal had brought to light many issues between Witt and its neighbours.

She said she was fed up with the staff and students leaving the campus to smoke in groups outside residents' homes and also using the street as a glorified parking lot.

She said there was often antisocial and antagonistic behaviour on Bell St and she blamed Witt for the issues.

"Witt are pushing the problems onto the street for the residents to deal with," she said.

"Allowing Witt to claim our lovely little quiet street for their entrance would be a total travesty and a torment for the residents."

She said residents were already concerned about the overuse of the street and hoped it would not get worse.

There were other options for creating a better street that did not require a $260,000 upgrade. Bell St was not the only entrance to Witt and the lower entrance on Hendrie St was arguably better because it was a wider entrance and had speed bumps.

"Also, this entrance goes immediately to the readily available parking within the grounds of the Witt campus," Barnett said.

"Really, the street parking was a privilege to staff that has now been claimed as an entitlement and God help the residents if the staff don't get a park."

She said none of the residents was against an upgrade to Bell St, but they were against a "fantastical scheme" pushed by the polytech, which included ideas like Witt having an entertainment area and a food truck in the street.

That idea had since been removed from the plan, but was an indication of Witt's desire to encroach onto the street, she said.

Fellow Bell St resident Gordon Graves said the expensive upgrade would not solve any of the problems and the council was wasting money on something of no benefit to the residents.

Staff would still come at 7am every week day and take all of the parking on the street , he said. "So what is the advantage to us, the residents?.

"Come and live on Bell St and then you will see what we have to put up with."

However, Danny Hall, who represented Witt at the council meeting, said the upgrade would have several significant benefits for all parties.

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"The plan provides for a calmer, quieter street making it a better experience for all," he said.

Several issues had been raised during the planning of the project, including parking, but had been addressed by the final design, he said.

However, councillor Len Houwers questioned if the upgrade would actually solve much of the strife, and asked Hall for an explanation on how Witt planned to work on "nuisance issues", like behaviour and parking. "We are still working through that," Hall said.

Funding for the project will come from three sources, with $120,000 from NZ Transport Agency, $80,000 from the Let's Go budget and the remaining $60,000 from the council's roading budget.

- Taranaki Daily News

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