New street look goes ahead by narrow margin

Balclutha's main street. Photo from ODT files.
Balclutha's main street. Photo from ODT files.
A new look for Balclutha's main street will proceed after the Clutha District Council voted yesterday to sign off on the town's $2.6 million streetscape upgrade by the narrowest of margins.

The council reduced its range of options to two but was divided when it came to finalising a position, voting 7-6 for a compromise to its original plans due to a request for more parking spots from a group of retailers.

''I do believe that we are going to achieve something that truly makes a difference to our district,'' Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said after the vote.

But he voted against the plan that received the council's approval.

The council approved an option that reintroduced three parking spots into the makeover and eliminated proposed seating and trees in John St.

Baxter Design Group proposed to remove 48 parking spots from the main street in its vision for the Clyde St upgrade but, after public consultation, the council reinstated 20 parking spots.

Parking in John St became a stumbling block when a group of retailers requested a rethink prior to final approval.

Cr Bruce Graham said yesterday he preferred making no further changes to the plans - the request from retailers at the public forum to change the plans had come after public consultation had closed. He said he had been approached by members of the community questioning the length of the decision-making process.

''Are we letting the tail shake the dog?'' he asked.

Mr Cadogan said the town was trying to change the way it was perceived by visitors, and locals argued for an option that saw the addition of only one parking spot and no change to the proposed footpath amenities.

''What are we trying to achieve here?'' he said.

He reminded councillors the designers' criticism of Balclutha's main street was originally that ''it's long and narrow, with no start and no finish''.

''You turn at the South Otago Hotel and see all the way to the South Pole.

''I am frustrated that such an emphasis has been put on [parking] since public submissions have closed.''

He said a lack of parking on the main street was exacerbated by ''retailers parking on the street all day, and [other] retailers not asking them to move it''.

Cr Stewart Cowie said he was approached prior to the meeting and asked to support ''Option 5'', which would see the removal of almost all proposed streetscape amenities and the least loss of parking.

''Let's remove `Option 5' here and now,'' he said. Cr Ron Davis agreed that the option ought not to be discussed.

But he said there was a commercial sensitivity and one of the retailers who put in the late application for a change in plans had ''legitimate concerns''.

The council eliminated options one by one until a vote stood between the approved option, which put three parking spots back and eliminated proposed seating and trees, and an option that saw the plans mostly unchanged but took out a tree in favour of a parking spot.

The option to put more parking back on the main street was supported by Crs Davis, Ken Payne, Jo-anne Thomson, Gaynor Finch, Selwyn Wilkinson, Hilary McNab and Jeff McKenzie.

Crs Graham, Cowie, Geoff Blackmore, Bruce Vollweiler, John Cochrane and Mr Cadogan voted against the change.

Crs Hamish Anderson and Michelle Kennedy did not attend the meeting and sent apologies.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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