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City plan launch was ‘missed opportunity’ to show collaboration

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Boarded up: The draft City of Hamilton plan reported on the high percentage of ground floor vacancies in Hamilton (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Government has been accused of missing an opportunity to show collaboration and put differences aside when it launched a plan for Hamilton’s future development.

The City of Hamilton praised the consultative approach of the Department of Planning for the City of Hamilton Plan 2023 but a spokeswoman said the city did not receive a copy of the document until it was released to the public.

The spokeswoman added that they were also disappointed that no representatives of the city were invited to the Government’s press conference on the plan, held on Friday.

“The Government felt the need to ‘rent’ Fort Hamilton to make the announcement, when, together, the city and the Government could have delivered it as a show of collaboration,” she said. “A missed opportunity.”

The spokeswoman added: “There is plenty of work to do in Hamilton. It is an ongoing process to not just maintain but lead the city through the onslaught of new technologies.

“It must not go unsaid that some of the issues mentioned in the plan that plague the city are not planning related – declining retail sales, pandemic recovery, et cetera.

“A good start would be to put differences aside and work together with the relevant ministries to bring about a positive economic way forward.

“Hamilton is a 21st-century city and will further forge the good working relationship with the Department of Planning to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The Government missed an opportunity to show collaboration with the City of Hamilton over the City of Hamilton Plan 2023, according to the City.

The spokeswoman said that the city had received a copy of the draft plan and would offer feedback during the public engagement process, which is set to continue until March 24.

“The Government’s 2023 Plan builds on the 2015 Plan and focuses on a core set of principles and contributions to the public realm,” the spokeswoman said.

“The city’s strategic plan mirrors this ideology and, to that end, the city has already, and continues to, implement elements included in the plan, with more to come.

“The city recognises a number of the issues raised in the plan – greening of the city and making it pedestrian friendly, tactile cross walks, accessibility access, increased vitality through al fresco and city-sponsored events, to name a few – all projects and initiatives currently in place or being worked on.”

The consultative draft highlighted the challenges facing the city, including a 15 per cent vacancy at ground level, and sought to revitalise the city to make it a “destination” for people.

The plan proposes encouraging using properties in the city for artistic and cultural uses, al fresco dining, healthcare and even non-traditional farming.

The plan also sought to encourage developers to consider community benefits and energy efficiency for projects within the city and proposed more consolidated parking – potentially freeing up areas of the waterfront and the City Hall car park for other uses.

The City of Hamilton and the Government have been engaged in a legal dispute as the city tried to block government plans to dissolve the island’s two municipalities and turn them into unelected quangos.

Under legislation approved by the House of Assembly in 2019, the Government would appoint mayors and half the councillors. The remaining councillors would be picked by the relevant minister on the recommendation of a selection committee.

Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the Supreme Court that the Government could go ahead with the abolition of local democracy in Hamilton and St George.

However, the City of Hamilton has appealed the case to London’s Privy Council in a last-ditch effort to halt the change.

The Gazette asked the Ministry of Home Affairs for a comment but did not receive a response by press time.

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Published January 25, 2023 at 2:37 pm (Updated January 25, 2023 at 2:37 pm)

City plan launch was ‘missed opportunity’ to show collaboration

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