While schools in some of Christchurch's poorer areas are being closed by the government  to save money a private school, Cathedral Grammar,  has so much money it wants to buy a public road  - Chester Street West -   in order to expand.  Christchurch City Council management have approved the deal and now want the  Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board to recommend  to Council that the road be stopped, pending the sale to the school.

This Wednesday (June 19) the Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board will be asked to approve the sale of Chester Street West to Cathedral Grammar School. The sale has already been  assumed by the school in its new  strategic plan which its Board of Trustees signed off  in November last year.

Christchurch City Council management want the community board to recommend to  Council that Chester Street West be stopped as a road and so allowing it to be sold to Cathedral Grammar School.

Cathedral Grammar is a private Anglican school. It provides education for pre-school, primary school and intermediate aged girls and boys.   Yearly fees range from approximately $10,000 to $14,000.

Cathedral Grammar has the funds to buy the road. According to Philip Basher, an Transport Policy Engineer with the Council, the road is valued at $2,130,000.

The section of road in question divides the school and is 1720 square metres in area and 82 metres in length between two sets of gates. 

The section of road provides a link between Park Terrace and Cranmer Square except on school days when the gates are closed between 9.30am and 2pm. Pedestrians, in theory, have access to the road at all times but it is used by Cathedral Grammar as a playground.

The Chester Street West 'pedestrian mall' was introduced by the Council  in 2000. The Inner City West Association strenuously  objected to the  mall. It said that Council  had not consulted the local community and that it was inappropriate  that a public street be arbitrarily used as a playground by Cathedral Grammar and that the road should be fully re-opened.

There was also opposition to the two sets of gates which make it appear that the road is part of the school rather than public space.

What Christchurch City Council management have agreed to - and want the  Hagley-Ferrymead community Board to rubberstamp  - is the sale of a high value public space to a wealthy private school which stands to reap enormous financial benefits from the proposed sale.

So while schools like Phillipstown are being forced to close by the government  against the wishes of the local community, it is proposed to give an  already  wealthy  private school a big helping hand to expand.

The Hagley-Ferrymead Community  Board  meeting is being  held at the Board Room, Woolston Club, 43 Hargood Street, Woolston on Wednesday 19 June. It starts at 3pm.

It is also worth noting that the stopping of Chester Street West is being proposed even though Gerry Brownlee has yet to finalise the Christchurch central city transport plan.

Given Brownlee's attack on the 'slowness'  of the  Christchurch City Council's building consent  process perhaps this is a case of ' A Minister in a glasshouse shouldn't fire media missiles'.


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