Great Wall of Corstorphine an error

A walkway from Milburn St in Corstorphine ends abruptly at a new wooden fence in part of the former Corstorphine School grounds. Photos by Lynley Hood.
A walkway from Milburn St in Corstorphine ends abruptly at a new wooden fence in part of the former Corstorphine School grounds. Photos by Lynley Hood.
Plans for a subdivision at the site of the former Corstorphine School in Dunedin has stopped Lynley Hood in her tracks.

There is a terrible mistake in the subdivision plans for the old Corstorphine School grounds.

The good news is that it's not too late to fix it, and fixing it should be straightforward - but time is of the essence.

The property is still owned by the Ministry of Education.

Settlement of the purchase (believed to be to a property developer) is expected to take place on May 16.

The mistake concerns the paved path that runs along the northern border of the school property between the end of Milburn St and the community facilities on Lockerbie St (a kindergarten, a child care centre and a community hub).

This concrete and asphalt path has been well-used and well-maintained for at least 64 years.

In a suburb with a relatively high proportion of households without access to a motor vehicle, this path provides a vital pedestrian link for people of all ages using the community facilities, for bus patrons cutting 20 minutes off their homeward journeys by taking a shortcut through the school grounds, and for recreational runners and walkers, together with their children and dogs, enjoying exercise and fresh air among the trees and fields.

If the path were closed, walking from Milburn St to Lockerbie St would turn a 300m stroll into a 2km slog.

Over Easter, when there was no-one around to witness the atrocity, someone - presumably the developer - build a solid wooden 2m-high wall around the community facilities on Lockerbie St, and in doing so tore into the fragile social fabric of this suburb.

The Great Wall of Corstorphine not only blocks several paths, including the one between Milburn and Lockerbie Sts, it blocks the driveway used by Corstorphine's community worker to bring soil and compost to the vegetable garden he is creating. When I visited Corstorphine's only grocery store in search of carrots, there were no fresh fruit or vegetables on sale, so the community garden is vital to the health of our residents.

DCC planners tell me that the path between Milburn and Lockerbie Sts is not a registered easement. Nonetheless, it is a well-established common law easement.

The Ministry of Education has always treated it as such and has kept it well maintained, both during the life of the school and after the school had closed.

The foreword to the ''Standard for disposal of land held for a public work'' LINZS15000 (which includes Crown land used for educational purposes) is short and to the point:IntroductionThe Public Works Act 1981 sets out the procedures for disposing of land held for a public work but is no longer required for that public work.

It ensures that those who have a recognised interest in the land are given priority when the land is disposed of.

Purpose of standardThe purpose of this standard is to ensure that all those with a recognised interest in land held for a public work are considered when that land is disposed of.

In the disposal of the Corstorphine School land, these basic requirements were not met.

The Ministry of Education's ongoing upkeep of the path clearly shows that the ministry was not only aware that the path existed, it was aware of the importance of the path to the people of Corstorphine.

Yet the ministry did not include an easement for the path in the land sale documents, and Linz and the DCC did not pick up the mistake.

If the mistake is not corrected before the land is sold, the conduct of the developer suggests that he/she is unlikely to provide an easement for the path unless compelled by a court to do so.

There is still time to rectify the mistake before the land sale is completed.

All it needs is for the Ministry of Education, Linz and the DCC to agree that an easement for the path between Milburn and Lockerbie Sts, though mistakenly omitted from documents relating to the land sale, must be included in the subdivision.

There is no time to lose. It needs to be fixed now.

Dr Lynley Hood is a Corstorphine bus patron.

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