Airspace, Overpasses And The Public Interest
15 December 2000
AIRSPACE, OVERPASSES AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Developers aspiring to use Queen Street airspace for commercial development are likely to be disappointed, says Auckland City’s Planning and Regulatory chair, Juliet Yates.
Referring to a recent National Business Review report (17 November) about a consortium’s plans to buy plum airspace in Queen Street, Cr Yates says that any such proposal would encounter great difficulties.
“The council’s proposed Central Area Plan does not envisage the sale of air space in order to facilitate further intensification of development,” she said.
“Overpasses are intended to separate pedestrians and traffic movement where this is in the public interest. They are not built, nor have air rights, unless all aspects of the public interest have been carefully considered.”
Cr Yates says many major streets in the central area are zoned Public Open Space and the intention is to keep them that way because they help maintain comfort, safety and pleasantness within the intensely developed and densely built up inner city environs.
“The Central Area Plan has specific controls to make sure that sunlight is not blocked from the streets and there are street sightlines to protect significant views of the harbour, Rangitoto, the North Shore and other natural features and landmarks,” she said.
“Any application to infringe the sightlines will be assessed as a non-complying activity and there are extensive assessment criteria to measure impact on the surrounding environment. Council will consider the Plan’s objectives and policies, the necessity for the structure, and any alternative methods available to the applicant which would meet the Plan’s requirements and ways in which adverse effects could be mitigated.
“The Plan anticipates the controls will enhance pedestrian amenity while maintaining and supporting essential pedestrian and transport facilities and networks and infrastructure facilities and services.”
Overpasses and underpasses can protect pedestrians from the weather and keep them safe from traffic but there are disadvantages with separation from the natural environment and greater risks to personal safety, Cr Yates says.
They can diminish views, adversely affect the streetscape and discourage pedestrians from moving around at street level which detracts from street life, safety and security.
“They are useful in certain limited circumstances, such as between the Downtown carparking building and the Downtown Shopping Centre,” Cr Yates comments.
“However, experience shows that pedestrians often prefer to play ‘Russian Roulette’ with the traffic and cross busy streets at street level. There are seldom students on the Wellesley Street overpass from AUT to Albert Park and few people use the overbridge from the western side of the Downtown carpark to the Viaduct Harbour.”
Cr Yates says underpasses are also under-used. “Many university students run the traffic gauntlet of Symonds Street, despite the existence of two costly underpasses, while suburban underpasses such as the one that links Glen Innes shops and the railway station can be subject to graffiti and make people feel unsafe.”
For further information
Please contact Cr Juliet Yates
Telephone 528 0581 or 025 289 0623