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Thursday, March 24, 2011

'Sympathy' for Athfield's views on Christchurch

'Sympathy' for Athfield's views on Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 24/03/2011
A call to axe Christchurch's one-way streets and cut inner-city bus routes has won "lots of sympathy" from Mayor Bob Parker.

Christchurch-born architect Ian Athfield, 70, appointed the city's architectural ambassador after the September 4 earthquake, said this week that his bottom line for the rebuild was "no one-way streets and no unnecessary buses through the city".

"If that's not accepted, then I'm not really interested in being involved," he said.

Parker said yesterday that he had "lots of sympathy" for Athfield's views.

He wanted the Wellington-based architect to be involved in central Christchurch planning, but he would not give guarantees about dropping the one-way system or cutting bus numbers.

"Sympathetic as I am to his point of view, it's important to go into the process with an open mind," Parker said.

"I don't think the vision belongs to any one person. It belongs to the city as a whole."

Athfield yesterday defended his comments, saying it was "absolutely the best time ever" to have the debate on how the city should look.

Athfield said he had received "mainly positive comments" about his wishlist for the city.

"It's important, now more than ever, that we look at the big picture and address the issues," he said. "Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, we have a great chance to make an even better city."

He wants buses to take passengers around, not through, the central city.

This week, in 15 minutes, he counted 25 buses in Hereford St carrying just 22 passengers.

"We need to remove buses from the middle of town and replace them with people," Athfield said.

Christchurch had been hindered by "unfriendly" planning and transport rules, and the time was right to review them.

"The city will be quite different than before, so it's absolutely important to debate and make changes," he said.

"Unless we address the big issues, we will not get the critical decisions right."

Former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore said the city now had a "clean slate" that presented opportunities like never before.

He said the quake "challenges absolutely everything" Christchurch thought about itself as a city.

Moore said Athfield was "courageous and just the right person with the right ideas".

The city's philosophy of running buses through the central city because it was home to 50,000 workers had changed since February 22, he said.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said city planners had the opportunity to change traffic flows and take a different approach to public transport.

"I think it's a good opportunity to recreate the central city, not rebuild it," he said.

"From my perspective, the central city of the future would not be traffic-intensive.

"I much prefer the ring-road concept."

- The Press

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