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April 23, 2007 | by  | in News |
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WCC voices opposition to proposed hostel

The Wellington City Council has expressed its displeasure at Vic’s plans for the development of a new 400-bed hostel overlooking Boyd Wilson Field.

“We’re not wild about… both the design and the location,” says City Councillor Andy Foster. One particular concern he raised was the close proximity of the proposed buildings to the residential area. “The bulk of the buildings are not broken up well.”

According to Foster, the University precinct development on campus requires a gradual increment in the height of the buildings in the area. “The buildings [next to each other] can’t go from three stories to eight.”

The lack of public consultation was another issue the Council is unhappy with. The University was made aware of these grievances and had recently re-submitted its building application, but Foster says the “changes [the University had made] were small and not sufficient to deal with concerns.”

Under the Council’s district zoning plan, the Institutional Precinct Guidelines allow the Council to advise the University but it cannot control its developments. Foster adds that this regulation was based on the expectation that “the University act like good citizens… more disposed to respecting public opinion.”

While retrospective legislation was “unusual” – and “frowned upon”, Foster did not rule out the possibility that current laws may be re-visited.

Having recently “tightened up” rules around the airport area, he says that the Council may look to do the same in the area surrounding the University.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Neil Quigley has dismissed the City Council’s concerns, saying the University’s proposal comprised a “really high-quality design plan” – an opinion echoed by the Student Accommodation Services – that had originally complied “one hundred per cent” with regulations.

Quigley conceded that while the Council had the option of changing the District Plan, ultimately the decision to approve building rests on Council staff and not the Councillors.

“It’s a technical issue, rather than a political one,” he says, adding that with 2007 being an election year, Councillors may be inclined to take particular political stances “thinking they may 20 votes.”

A series of meetings have been held over several months between Quigley, Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh, and concerned residents in the Aro Valley area. Quigley says a lot of time has been put into public consultation – “far more” than necessary.

Out of “goodwill,” the University has made amendments to its consent application, including the removal of a storey from one of the buildings. Employed architects also surveyed areas which locals suggested as alternative sites, but these were later assessed to be unsuitable or not economically viable.

With a response from Council staff due within a few weeks, clearing of the site is scheduled to begin in June.

The hostel is projected to be complete and inhabitable in February 2009.

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