Marcus Darley, of Featherston, stands on the now-ditched development site. PHOTO/FILE

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

A proposal for a retail development in central Featherston has been ditched and the community is blaming South Wairarapa District Council.

Featherston ward councillors and the community board say they are “gutted” and “disappointed” with the news, with former councillor Dayle Harwood saying Featherston had again drawn the short straw.

“Because of SWDC, we may as well change our name to Feathers, as it fails to get the end bits done for this town.”

Developers Marcus Darley and Neil McLachlan have walked away from the main street project after a long-winded resource content process with SWDC.

The development would have seen a retail hub on Fitzherbert St, State Highway 2, next to the town square.

Featherston Ratepayers and Residents Association (FRRA) spokeswoman Sue Fox said as far as the group was concerned, “the blame for the failure of the proposal lies squarely at the door of SWDC”.

“FRRA has always had reservations about the viability of such a small piece of commercial land.

“The size of the lot was dictated by a largely useless and ugly town square and council failed to guide the developer through plan conditions to a successful conclusion.”

SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said both parties had been working hard to resolve the issues, and as a result the consent was put on hold in November 2017.

“Neither party were able to resolve the outstanding issues in order for the resource consent to proceed.”

It is understood these issues surrounded easements and the matter of the property’s title.

Featherston ward councillor Lee Carter said she was “absolutely gutted” for the town, while another councillor Colin Olds said he was “disappointed” the project wasn’t going ahead.

“The reality is that this development would have completed our town square beautifully, and probably saw better utilisation of the town square itself.”

Mr Olds said there was now an opportunity for SWDC to have a “comprehensive” look at the site to see whether it was feasible for a commercial development.

Featherston Community Board chairwoman Robyn Ramsden said the news was “very disappointing”.

“People in the town are going to be extremely upset, and I really hope that the council is able to be more problem solving focused in the future.”

Mr Harwood said the council was “throwing money and resources” at the proposed future development area in Greytown and identifying development land in Martinborough, where “millions of ratepayers’ money and sale of district-owned land” was already funding the Waihinga Centre – “and Featherston gets a useless bit of dirt”.

He said the town “deserves better”.

Mr Crimp said the retail hub would have been an asset to “vibrant” Featherston and South Wairarapa as a whole.

SWDC will undertake an economic analysis of the land before it goes back on sale.

“Marcus is a well-known and respected entrepreneur and I am sure he will continue with his strong vision for our region and continue to be a valuable contributor.” Mr Crimp said.

Mr Darley did not wish to comment on the situation.