Hutt City Council is to seek public submissions on a change to its District Plan that its advisors admit could seriously damage retailing in Petone’s Jackson St heritage area.
The proposed Petone west plan change will allow small-scale retailing along Jackson St in the area between Victoria St and Petone Railway Station. The area is currently reserved for large format retailing.
In a report to the council, economic consultants Development Economics says “If smaller specialty retailing was permitted in the plan change area, it is expected that there would be a significant relocation of stores from the Mainstreet area... It is expected that 30-60 would relocate to the Plan Change area. This would potentially result in significant vacancies and the deterioration of in the quality of retail tenants in the mainstreet, which may undermine the overall economic and social value of the centre.”
In a technical report, council officer Dwayne Fletcher said the proposed change is expected to result in an additional $294 million in GDP over the next 20 years and additional 361 jobs in retail over the next decade. “It should be noted that the benefits associated with retail development are likely to be overstated, as some retail developments are likely to likely to displace activity from Jackson Street or from elsewhere in Hutt City.”
While the change will lead to additional retail development in west Petone, “Property Economics have advised that in their view much (if not most) will displace retail activity in Jackson Street”.
Jackson Street Programme manager Robert Hutton says the council’s decision to proceed goes against the wishes of the community. “It’s a little bit disappointing.”
He says many people have worked hard over the last two decades to revitalise Jackson St. But if small-scale retail is allowed in west Petone, businesses will seek to relocate, especially if they - or property owners - face the costs of strengthening earthquake prone buildings. He says the Plan change will not lead to economic growth. “It’s shifting people from one space to another.”
Petone Community board chairman Gerald Davidson says the Plan change originated from the Petone Vision process in 2006 during with which the community was extensively involved. However, the proposed change goes well beyond what the community agreed.
“The matter of extending the Jackson Street retail strip to the Railway Station was not raised, nor was making retailing in general a permitted activity.”
Harbour ward councillor Ross Jamieson says these differences are significant and substantially change what is proposed. “It rides roughshod over the basic tenets of the Petone Vision statement.”
He says the council’s decision forces the community to oppose the council, rather than working together to achieve the best possible outcome.
“Why generate this unnecessary angst?’
He agrees with Mr Hutton that the proposed change will seriously undermine the viability of Jackson St retailers. “It’s taken 20 years to build up Jackson St. It works. So why undermine something that works?”
However, Hutt mayor Ray Wallace says the council is not interested in undermining Jackson St. “Jackson St is a success story. We don’t want to mess with success.”
He says the council is keen to work with the Jackson Street Programme to explain the change and to encourage people to make submissions. “We remain committed to working with the community.”
Mr Wallace says the change is only a proposal and final decisions are still some time off.
The plan change is expected to be advertised next month, with submissions likely to close in late July, with public hearings being held the following month.
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