22 Sep 2016

Street to lose ‘character’ in Unitary Plan intensification

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A legal battle is brewing over Auckland’s plan for intensification of streets in some of the city’s oldest suburbs.

The moves allowing multi-storey buildings to be built in specific zones fall under the Unitary Plan which was given the go-ahead last month.

William Palmer’s Mt Eden home was built in the early 1900’s. He has spent the past nine years saving up and renovating it.

“We could have sat on it and waited to subdivide it up into a whole bunch of lots but we didn’t,” he says.

“We kept this site at full site and we wanted to keep the heritage and we wanted to keep with the area. We wanted something that would last time.”

But his street, and others around the city could soon see apartment buildings up to seven storeys high.

The situation itself isn’t unique – areas all over the city are subject to new zoning under the Unitary Plan.

But a group representing homeowners wanting to preserve heritage, the Character Coalition, argues late changes were made to the plan without public consultation.

It says a number of single-house zoned areas were “upscaled” in maps that were withdrawn as evidence by Auckland Council’s development committee early this year.

But the group believes the Council’s Independent Hearing Panel took those maps into consideration when deciding on its version of the Unitary Plan.

Sally Hughes from the Character Coalition says the process didn’t give residents enough time to respond.

“They couldn’t submit on something they didn’t know was going to happen,” she says.

“Once it happened, it was too late for them to be involved in the process.”

The changes are being challenged in the Environment Court by the Character Coalition, in one of more than 100 appeals against the final version of the Unitary Plan.

The group behind the action says they’re not against intensification, but don’t want to see it in a number of streets.

“We’ve asked for a priority hearing because we are very keen not to hold up the Unitary Plan,” Ms. Hughes says.

“Auckland needs and wants intensification and so we just want it to be without the loss of these beautiful streets.”

Auckland Council declined to comment as the matter is before the courts but says the development of the Unitary Plan took more than four years.

It says the proposed plan included a six-month submission period, drawing more than 13,000 submissions and 1.4 million separate submission points.

The Panel’s role was to hear submissions and review evidence on the proposed Unitary Plan before making recommendations to the Council about any changes it thought should be made based on the submissions and evidence received, it said.

The Architects Institute’s David Gibbs believes the legal challenge will hinge on whether homes like Palmer’s are worth protecting.

“It requires a definition of what ‘character’ is in the first place, and then there is a decision about whether that character is worthy of protection,” he says.

“Whereas heritage is worthy of protection without doubt.”


Published: Newshub > Street to lose ‘character’ in Unitary Plan intensification


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