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ChCh Heritage Gone but not forgotten

ChCh Heritage Gone but not forgotten

The current demolition of 398 Oxford Terrace illustrates that the wholesale slaughter of Christchurch's inner city heritage continues apace. This building was not an "Armson" or a "Mountford" - one of the neo-gothic civic monuments that Christchurch is famous for.

This was one of the simple workers' homes for so many of those that built our city. With its demolition there are now few continuous stretches of pre-1910 houses left within the four avenues. A stroll along the banks of the Avon will now mean one more modernist box and one less "character home".

After the campaign to save the old house, disappointed local residents gathered to watch its demise. "Our city's character is rapidly disappearing. It is another sad day for local heritage," said inner city resident and SOS spokesperson Adam Cath. "Isn't its character also the backbone of inner city tourism?"

The building was not extraordinary building in itself. The early villa - more than 100 years old – was, however, part of one of the few remaining streetscapes in the inner city from this period. The house is to be replaced with one that is somewhat ordinary but that stands out in that it has little, if anything, in common with those surrounding it. The new house will be essentially big windows and a two-garage door. It is a house that is about looking out rather than something to look at. It will sit at a different orientation to those around it. It will be made of different materials to those around it and it will be two-storied when its neighbours are one. If it tried to be more different it would be hard to do so.

Local residents, believing their neighbourhood was somewhat protected by the "Special Amenity Area" (SAM) provisions of the City Plan that talk of "retaining the local character" have been disappointed by the difficulty in getting any help to prevent the demolition and stop the new development.

"We have contacted the council but they have done little to help. Apparently there is nothing 'special' about a Special Amenity Area" said Mr Cath. This is not an unusual situation between the four avenues today. Our group which has been calling for a halt to the demolition would like to see the City Plan changed so SAMs can actually be saved." "I had hoped my young son would grow up with some of his history around him. Obviously Christchurch property developers and their council have a different view" said Mr Cath.


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