16 January 2017
Report no: PRC2017/1/50
Future of Bell Park
Purpose of Report
1.††† The purpose of this report is to look at the future of Bell Park in Waiwhetu.
It is recommended that the Committee recommends that Council:
(i)†††††††† notes that historically Bell Park has been managed as a formal sports park but has not been used for this purpose for two seasons and will not be required for such use in the future;
(ii)††††††† notes that an independent assessment of reserve values has been undertaken which considers Bell Park has a medium rating, contributing to the local and wider reserve network;†
(iii)†††††† agrees to undertake public consultation on a proposal to revoke the reserve status of approximately 1 ha of Bell Park and make the land available for housing, for the following reasons;
(a)†† the park is no longer required as a formal sports ground, serving the wider Lower Hutt community;
(b)†† a smaller area of land is required for the purposes of providing a neighbourhood reserve in this suburb than currently exists;
(c)†† there will be an opportunity to improve visibility to the neighbourhood reserve and thereby improved public safety once that part of the Park not required is sold and developed; and
(d)† the proceeds of the sale of that part of the Park not required for the neighbourhood reserve, will enable other Council reserve development priorities to be undertaken, such as those identified in the Valley Floor Review implementation plan.†††
2.††† Bell Park is a recreation reserve, 15,500 m2 in size, situated in the suburb of Waiwhetu.† The park is bounded on all sides by housing with single-lane vehicular access off Bell Road and two pedestrian access points from Douglas Street and Riverside Drive South. An aerial plan of the park is attached as Appendix 1 to the report.
3.††† The park has traditionally been used as a sports ground, having been the home of the Lower Hutt City Association Football Club (the Club), prior to its move to Fraser Park in 2013.† The park is included in the Sports Grounds Reserve Management Plan.
4.††† The park accommodated a single premier football pitch and an area for football training.† The Clubís building, which is on a separate legal title of 785 m2, is sub-let by the Club to the Bellevue Boxing Club.
5.††† As a sports ground the park had limitations with the Club having to erect and maintain high nets at either end of the pitch to try and prevent the ball from being kicked over the fence into adjoining properties. In 2013 the Club relocated to Fraser Park and for the past two seasons the Park has not been used for football.
6.††† The introduction of artificial football turfs at Memorial and Fraser Parks, has resulted in a reduced need for grass fields across the City.
7.††† The Councilís reserves ground lease with the Club expired on 31 March 2016 and is currently on a month to month basis. A new long term lease is shortly to be entered into, based on a decision made by the Community and Infrastructure Services Committee in November 2011 that Council would give an undertaking of long term tenure to the Club at the time the lease expired. The new lease is for a period of 15 years (10+5).
Valley Floor Review
8.††† Council resolved at its meeting on 15 March 2016, when considering the Valley Floor Review, to direct officers to undertake a review of Bell Park for the purpose of considering its future.† The catalyst for this review is that sport is not now played on the reserve.† If the Park is not required for organised sport in the future, then an assessment needs to be made on its use and purpose as a neighbourhood park.†
9.††† An independent assessment of the Parkís reserve values has been undertaken in accordance with the criteria established by Council as part of the Reserves Strategic Directions 2016-2026.† This assessment concludes that Bell Park has an overall medium level of reserve significance. The report by PAOS is attached as Appendix 2 to the report.
10.† Officers have been asked to investigate relocating the Sola Power Throwing Academy (SPTA) from its existing site between the overbridges at Moera to another suitable Council site.† Bell Park would be large enough for this activity though it would need to be positioned to ensure there was no chance of an ill-thrown javelin, hammer or discus ending up in private property, or endangered other casual users of the park. The request to relocate the activity does not originate from SPTA, which has indicated that it is very satisfied with its current location and does not want to move.† If it was to move then Council would need to pick up all costs, noting that SPTA has all approvals to operate from its current site.
11.† If Bell Park is not required for the delivery of formal sports ground activities, then its use will be limited largely to being that of a neighbourhood reserve.† The key question then is what would be a reasonable provision of open space to satisfy this local need, taking into account other nearby reserve land.†
12.† While there are no specific guidelines to determine what this provision should be, officers consider that the current area of just over 1.5 hectares for a local neighbourhood park is at the generous end of the scale.† The New Zealand Recreation Association identifies 0.3 hectares as a minimum size required for a neighbourhood reserve, with most neighbourhood reserves being around 0.5 hectares in size.
13.† The Waiwhetu Stream corridor and Bell Square are the closest other reserve land to Bell Park, being within 200 metres. There are also two school grounds within the immediate vicinity, which provide further open space within the suburb. Two large sports grounds at Te Whiti Park and Hutt Park, while being further away (between one and two kilometres), provide large open spaces for formal recreation north and south of Bell Park.
14.† The layout of Bell Park, with it being almost fully enclosed by residential properties having high rear fences, results in a lack of public visibility, which is not desirable.
15.† The assessment of reserve values identifies a medium rating for the park. It notes that the park has a role in the local and wider reserve network ensuring, that residents of Gracefield are within the desired 400 metres of a Council reserve.
16.† In considering the wider reserve needs and priorities there would be two main advantages to Council declaring part of the Park surplus to requirements and re-using the land for the development of housing.† These are:
a.††† there will be an opportunity to improve visibility to the neighbourhood reserve and thereby improved public safety; and
b.††† the proceeds of the sale of that part of the Park not required for the neighbourhood reserve, would be credited to the Reserves Purchase and Development Fund and be available for other reserve development priorities, such as those identified in the Valley Floor Review.
17.† Making available the surplus part of the park for housing would also be consistent with Councilís Urban Growth Strategy.†
18.† There are two main options to consider. These are:
a.††† to retain Bell Park as it is and take no further action; or
b.††† to consider a proposal to reduce the area of Bell Park.
19.† This report recommends that Council publicly notify a proposal to revoke the reserve status of part of Bell Park. All adjoining owners will be contacted as part of the consultation on this proposal. Other interested parties such as the Football and Boxing Clubs will also be notified.
20.† The proposal to revoke the reserve status of part of Bell Park is subject to Reserve Act 1977 processes.† Section 24 deals with the revocation of reserve lands.† This process generally requires;
a.†† Council initiating a proposal on the possibility of revoking the reserve status and disposing of reserve land
b.†† Placing a public notice inviting objections/submissions
c.†† Collating objections/submissions and reporting results of these back to Council with officer recommendations
d.†† Council hearing submissions and further considering the proposal
e.†† Councilís decision sent to DOC for approval by the Minister or her delegate
f.††† The decision to revoke if approved by DOC is published in the New Zealand Gazette.
21.† There are no financial considerations at this stage.
22.† In making this recommendation, officers have given careful consideration to the purpose of local government in section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002. Officers believe that this recommendation falls within the purpose of local government in that it considers the future of a Council owned community asset. It does this in a way that is cost-effective following the process set out in the Reserves Act 1977.
Bell Park Aerial Plan (Under Separate Cover)
Bell Park Assessment of Reserve Values February 2017 (Under Separate Cover)
†Author: Bruce Hodgins
Divisional Manager, Parks and Gardens
Approved By: Bruce Sherlock
General Manager, City Infrastructure