OPINION: Masterplan magnifies fragmented Frankton

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Big potential: Remarkables Park and Frankton, from The Remarkables skifield access road

David Jerram is an architect and urban designer, and co-author of a masterplan for redeveloping Queenstown Airport’s land for housing

The consultants who produced the just-released Draft Frankton Masterplan weren’t allowed to consider the possibility of relocating the airport.

As a result, this masterplan proves it is impossible to achieve a cohesive, connected community in Frankton while the airport remains.

Along with the many other problems the airport creates, Frankton remains a horseshoe of disconnected residential and commercial space surrounding the airport.

The inability to use the airport land has forced the consultants to make a key move that involves building multi-storey high-density housing, more commercial space, an expanded Events Centre and a transport hub along Five Mile. It’s called the Five Mile Urban Corridor.

There is a pretty picture of what this all might look like. You can see it on the council’s website. Multi-storey buildings either side of a treed street with a bus and a few cars. However this picture belies reality.

The corridor will be packed with traffic day and night, a huge source of noise for the adjoining residential areas, and it will be an unpleasant place to walk. The canyon of multi-storey buildings will shade the street in winter and act as a wind tunnel in summer.

And congestion? You know what it’s like now, so what about when you add traffic from the proposed Ladies Mile housing development (up to 2000 houses – a separate council idea), large numbers of cars from the adjacent high-density housing, increased traffic to the shops and businesses, traffic for the expanded Events Centre, buses entering and exiting the new transport hub, and traffic from an airport with double the current number of passengers.

And remember the Queenstown population will have doubled.

Is this really the image we want to present to visitors arriving in Queenstown? A drive through suburbs from Lake Hayes onwards and then a canyon of high-density buildings?

It is nonsensical to build more subdivisions and then dense housing and commercial space beside the main arterial road to Queenstown.

Flightplan 2050 has been criticised for suggesting relocating the airport an hour’s drive from Queenstown because locals won’t want to drive that far for their occasional flights.

But the council doesn’t seem to have the same concerns about a plan that would add so much congestion, and therefore at least half an hour’s driving time daily, for many people.

In the Frankton workshops, residents were asked to describe their aspirations for the area. Some key words used were: community, peaceful, connected, green, liveable, safe, vibrant, wellbeing.

Stemming from that consultation, one aim of the masterplan was a “cohesive plan that binds Frankton’s emerging community together”.

This plan does none of that. There is no sense there is a Frankton community.

The Frankton communities remain as split as ever. Remarkables Park, old Frankton and the new Five Mile Urban Corridor remain completely disconnected from one another around the airport. Being on the same bus route doesn’t create a community.

This proposal continues and magnifies the dislocation of residential communities from their parks, businesses, shops, community facilities and schools.

There is little green space.

New dense residential areas are built along the busiest section of Queenstown’s main arterial road, creating noise for the residents and congestion for everyone else.

This is not a liveable, vibrant or safe community.

There are also other problems. Taking over already-built commercial properties in Glenda Drive to build housing will be too expensive, let alone what the current owners feel about having to sell their properties.

Where is the school necessary for this dense population? Pupils will have to travel elsewhere.

The hospital to be relocated. Where? Probably Ladies Mile, by then about half an hour’s travel from most of Queenstown.

A flyover from the airport to link to the lake, the cost of which can’t be justified for a few airline passengers.

Frankton’s problems and aspirations can’t be resolved by this masterplan as there can be no logical solution when the basic premise is fundamentally flawed because of the airport.

Submissions on the Draft Frankton Masterplan close on July 26.