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Council under fire over supermarket plan

By John Cousins

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Tauranga City Council has been slammed for undermining its own planning rules by supporting the application to build a Countdown supermarket in Bureta.

The criticism was levelled by Stuart Gooch at yesterday's hearing into Progressive Enterprises' application to build a supermarket, up to six retail shops and a bottle store on land currently occupied by the Bureta Park Motor Inn.

The application for land use consent was heard by independent commissioners David Hill and Terry Brown, who reserved their decision.

Mr Gooch, speaking on behalf of Vale St resident Jeanette Hurley, said Progressive was asking for a commercial development on land zoned residential (the motor inn was originally operated as a community licensing trust).

He argued that the proposal was contrary to the intent of the residential zone because it was a non-complying activity. The council's City Plan placed significant restrictions on retail and offices in the residential zone and protected commercial centres.

Mr Gooch said the council should have assessed the effects of the proposal on nearby land zoned retail commercial. The largest closest retail site in Chapel St had not been assessed and neither had the downtown CBD.

Maintaining the integrity of the network of commercial sites was a cornerstone of the City Plan, he said. "These sites have been conveniently ignored," Mr Gooch said.

He disagreed with the council planner's statement that the application was not contrary to the intent of the City Plan and so did not warrant full public notification.

He said council staff had shown little regard for the community in their "staggering move" to limit public notification of the proposal. Only residents surrounding the site were able to submit.

Mr Gooch said the application should have been dealt with as a change to the City Plan but this option had been rejected because it would have undermined the plan.

Submissions from Vale St residents Neal and Val Butt were concerned at how shifting The Mill bottlestore from its current site beside Bureta Rd to the other side of the property would be a blot on their outlook.

"If Progressive want to bulldoze through this development, and not wait for [The Mill's] lease to expire, then they should swallow the bitter commercial pill and buy The Mill out."

Mr Butt was told at the project open day that The Mill's lease had several years to run, so it was able to demand a high profile site on Vale St.

Parking was another contentious issue, with residents complaining that staff parking would spill over on to the roads because there were only 17 supermarket staff carparks.

Progressive's consultant planner said it was normal practice elsewhere for staff overflow to use parks around the periphery of a supermarket's customer carpark, and many part-timers lived nearby and walked or cycled to work.

The Butts were also concerned at the impact on the roading network from whatever was developed on the 1.4ha remainder of the block adjoining the council reserve. Progressive last week advertised for expressions of interest from possible purchasers.

"Provisions should be made now to ensure there are measures such as traffic lights put in place before the development takes place to future-proof the roading system.

"We refute the council planner's contention that the effects of this development are no more than minor."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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