Council reluctant to make provisions for cyclist on road

"Protagonists on both sides of the bitterly-disputed Lovelock Ave debate have returned to their corners, and now await the judges' decision.

A resource consent hearing into the issue - reconvened following two days of hearings earlier this month - was adjourned yesterday, after a right of reply from Dunedin City Council planner Darryl Sycamore, and closing submissions from council counsel Michael Garbett.

Commissioners Roger Tasker and Allan Cubitt and city councillor Colin Weatherall plan to undertake a site visit and, barring calls for more evidence, should then consider the matter.

The council wants to realign Lovelock Ave to allow the Dunedin Botanic Garden more room for the rhododendron dell.

The realignment would allow relocation of propagation houses and administration buildings, and deal with what are said to be safety issues related to the road.

The plan has proved unpopular with Opoho residents, many of whom attended the hearing and claimed the new route would be more dangerous because of its steep gradient, ice and sun-strike.

They also worried it would be popular with boy-racers.

Mr Sycamore's view that the realignment should not go ahead was mainly unchanged.

He said the hearings committee had heard "two polarised views from many highly qualified and credible people".

Traffic engineer David Gamble, who gave evidence for the council, had said the road was dangerous, and the low number of crashes in the past 10 years was due to luck.

But Mr Sycamore said "good luck" did not extend over the 10-year period.

He said the weight of evidence suggested the alternative route proposed would be more hazardous.

While there would be additional space for development in the garden if the realignment went ahead, that would be at a significant cost to both existing amenity, and heritage values.

Mr Garbett said the council did not want to allow cyclists to use the existing Lovelock Ave if it was realigned, but if the commissioners saw it as a critical issue, it would "reluctantly" make provision for cyclists to travel uphill only.

He disputed heritage evidence, and said the proposal created long-term benefits to the garden, which needed to be weighed against "short to medium-term localised effects".

Adjourning the hearing, Mr Tasker said he expected the site visit to be an important aspect in the commissioners' decision."

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