Girls' High loses bid to delay cycle path

LOIS CAIRNS AND RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 11:53 31/07/2014

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Christchurch Girls' High School has lost its bid to get construction of a new cycle path along Matai St East delayed.

The council is proposing to build a new 3-metre wide cycle path along Matai St East as part of a planned new cycleway connecting Canterbury University to the central city. It is the first link in a new $69 million cycleway network that will eventually criss-cross the city.

But Christchurch Girls' High School and the Ministry of Education wanted the council to delay construction of the Matai St East pathway until they have finished drafting the school's redevelopment plans because they were worried it could curtail their expansion plans.

Girls High was badly damaged in the quakes and has already had two buildings demolished. It is possible that further buildings may also need to be pulled down.

Darryl Millar, from the Resource Management Group, told Christchurch City councillors that the school's board of trustees and the Ministry of Education were currently working on a master plan for the school's redevelopment - a project that was likely to cost around $23m.

As part of the master plan they were looking at options for expanding the school's footprint. Because the school was bordered by the Avon River, options for expansion were limited, but they had raised the possibility with council staff of closing off Matai St East to give them more land.

They did not want the cycle path to go ahead until their master plan was completed in November as it could limit their options.

Millar acknowledged the delay might sit uncomfortably with the council but said both the cycle path and the school's redevelopment were public realm projects and it made sense to align them.

Council asset and network planning manager Terry Howes said if the council waited until the master plan was released in November, in reality it would push the delivery of the cycleway out by about six months because construction probably would not be able to get underway before February next year.

Another council manager, Richard Holland, said staff would not be comfortable with the idea of closing or partly closing Matai St East.

"From our perspective, it is a road that we would definitely want to keep open,'' Holland said.

Deputy mayor Vicki Buck said she could not support any delay to the cycleway project: "I'm absolutely adamant that we need to get on with cycleways," she said. "I'm happy that we work with the school around alternatives, but I'm not happy to delay these cycleways now or later."

Buck said this particular cycleway was vital as there were a lot of cyclists who would use it.

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Environment committee chairman Cr Phil Clearwater said the community had made it very clear it wanted the cycleways completed as soon as possible.

"We cannot possibly delay this,'' he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Christchurch Girls High School principal Pauline Duthie said they accepted the council's decision. The school was not opposed to the cycle path but had simply sought a delay so that it could work through it own master planning process.

- The Press

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