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Council Backs Urban Design Panel

26 July 2001


An independent urban design panel of designers and architects may soon be keeping an eye on the form and function of significant new building developments in the city.

Auckland City Council’s Smart City Governance Committee this week approved the formation of an urban design panel to provide a forum for debate and discussion of urban design issues at critical stages of proposed developments.

The committee has approved the concept of the panel – which will include two members with urban design/architectural backgrounds, supplemented by a member with a property/development background – and is seeking public and stakeholder comment on the proposal.

The urban design panel will not have decision-making powers – it will be a solely advisory body making recommendations to the Council or commissioners who hear consents.

The chairperson of the committee, Deputy Mayor Dr Bruce Hucker, said urban design panels were generally becoming accepted as “best practice” around the world and it was appropriate for a city of Auckland’s size to have such a panel.

“An integral part of the city’s Liveable Communities strategy has been to ensure high quality urban design,” said Dr Hucker, “and we see this as a key element in managing the city’s growth in an orderly way.”

Dr Hucker said the panel would concentrate on critical urban design elements of major projects, such as how their layout and nature in an urban context impacts on people’s quality of life and how it impacts on street presence and ground level activities.

A series of “triggers” would initiate a panel evaluation. The triggers would differ from area to area.

Triggers for inner-city buildings, for example, would include buildings which are subject to a resource consent or urban design assessment under the District Plan and which are new buildings, or existing buildings which are to have exterior additions.

For other buildings in the outer central city the urban design panel would become active where a resource consent was received, when buildings were more than six storeys, or where more than 20 apartments were proposed.

In the general isthmus area, developments will be checked against a number of triggers including heritage sites, open space, coastal management and taking account of the special character of the development.

Dr Hucker said the inclusion of the panel would work best “from day one” of any development, hence the importance of having a member of the panel from property developers.

The costs of the panel will be a cost to the project as per a normal resource consent, but to encourage applicants to talk to the panel early in the process, the Council will carry the costs of the panel prior to the lodging of a resource consent.

It will then recover the costs as part of the consent process. Where a project goes through an urban design assessment, but then fails to reach a resource consent, the Council will absorb the costs.

Dr Hucker said after consultation with the key stakeholders in the initiative, it will be reported back to the committee for final approval.

ENDS

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