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Concerns Raised Over Council 2016 Decision Approving Townhouse Or Apartment On Chateau On The Park Land

Introduction

As two former Christchurch City Councillors we were devastated to learn that the Christchurch City Council had approved a non-notified resource consent in 2016 for a 52-unit townhouse or apartment complex to be built on two pieces of theChateau on the Park grounds on the north side of the hotel. The address is 189 Deans Avenue and 9 Matai Street East and it runs beside Deans Avenue and alongside Girls High School.

The proposed development is to use just over quarter of the hotel site.

Over the past 15 years, we have watched with alarm and sadness the steady loss of the residential environment and character in many neighbourhoods across our city. This is particularly noticeable in Richmond, St Albans, Merivale, Riccarton, Fendalton and Waimairi.

Two of the most concerning aspects of this particular non-notified resource consent are the building permission of up to five stories of mixed residential accommodation and the almost total loss of immediate plantings including four notable trees.

Whilst the proposed townhouse or apartment complex was not built, the owners, Hilton MIQ hotel are now selling land, and any new owners can use the 2016 resource consent.

The land is zoned for guest accommodation use, which also allows for density at residential medium density levels.

We are seeking to raise public awareness and to challenge a council planning process regarding a significant local proposed development, which will result in the loss of a small but beautiful area in Riccarton.

There appears to have been no publicity at the time of its application in 2016 as the Council planners decided the application could be non-notified.

The property sale includes the already granted council permission for a major loss of environmental and vegetation surroundings in the area for the local residents.

Sadly, once again, we see yet another destructive development being built to the very edge of the Christchurch District Planning Rules. This results in a developer allowing very little for the green space of plantings and resulting in significant environment reduction.

Background - 2016 Resource Consent

In August 2016 the Christchurch City Council staff prepared a report titled: Report / decision to determine public notification, limited notification, or non-notification of a resource consent application (please refer to attached PDF).

The resource consent application was on behalf of McConnell Property Ltd regarding a site occupied by the existing hotel operation, the Chateau on the Park.

In summary the application was seeking to:

Construct 12 townhouses, 42 apartment units, alter and add to a heritage building and setting, and remove 4 notable trees. Under the Christchurch City Plan this was a Non-complying Activity.

We refer to the report’s Conclusion which states:

Due to the nature of nearby neighbours and buildings, the separation provided between the proposed apartment building and the nearest existing residential dwellings, and the balancing and mitigating effect of Hagley Park and the existing and proposed trees, I have considered that the extent of the effects of the proposal on nearby residential neighbours and users of CGHS, Hagley Park and the surrounding streets would be less than minor.

While I consider that most of the effects are not of a scale to adversely affect any particular persons who might own or occupy nearby sites, I have concluded that the extent of the visual dominance of the apartment building on the wider environment would be minor. This is because the scale of the building would be noticeable to the general public but would not have a significant adverse impact as it is appropriate for its context.

Pursuant to Section 95E(1) of the Act a person is not deemed affected by an activity where the adverse effects are less than minor, hence no persons are considered to be adversely affected.

Recovery Plans and Regeneration Plans

Section 60((2) of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 requires that decisions and recommendations on resource consent applications are not inconsistent with Recovery Plans and Regeneration Plans.

I consider that non-notification of the proposal is not inconsistent with the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, which seeks to enable residential activity within the Central City as the proposal is likely to support recovery of the Central City despite not being located within the four avenues.

There are no Regeneration Plans relevant to this application.

Special circumstances [Section 95A(4)]

There are no special circumstances or other aspects of the application that warrant public notification of this application.

RECOMMENDATION ON PUBLIC NOTIFICATION

That, for the reasons outlined above, the application need not be publicly notified in accordance with Section 95A of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Persons who may be adversely affected by the activity [Section 95E]

As concluded above, I consider that the effects of the proposal are not of a scale to adversely affect any particular persons, including those who might own or occupy nearby sites. The extent of any effects on owners or occupiers of the surrounding sites have been assessed as less than minor.

Objective 3.3.2 of the Christchurch Replacement District Plan

Chapter 3 of the Operative Replacement District Plan contains a number of high-level strategic objectives to guide the recovery and future development of the City. Objective 3.3.2 states that requirements for notification and written approval are to be minimised when implementing the Plan. A decision not to notify the application is consistent with this objective.

RECOMMENDATION ON LIMITED NOTIFICATION OR NON-NOTIFICATION

That the application be processed on a non-notified basis in accordance with Sections 95A – 95F of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Reported Date: 22 August 2016

Our Concerns

  1. Council Assessment Process ‘Potentially’ Flawed

As a significant non complying activity from our experience, the application should have been referred to a Panel or Commissioners. However, it was assessed by council staff. This is particularly surprising as it is a non-complying activity (one requiring higher standards) with a number of significant rule breaches.

2. Error in Use of Christchurch City Recovery Plan (refer to pages 3, 4 & 5 of staff report)

We believe staff were incorrect to use the Christchurch City Recovery Plan, which seeks to enable residential activity within the Central City, as justification for allowing this Riccarton application to proceed on a non-notified basis.

We find it extraordinary, in planning terms, that they have used the Central City Recovery Plan to justify non-notification. In their report the planners note “it is not central city-but suggest it is likely to support recovery of Central City”

This is completely wrong and we would argue that the use of the Central City Recovery Plan appears to be inconsistent with Recovery Plans and Regeneration Plans, and for this reason - should not have been used.

3. Notable tree removal - 4 that are protected (refer to pages 5 & 10 of staff report)

Two of the most concerning aspects of this particular non-notified resource consent are the building permission of up to five stories of mixed residential accommodation and the almost total loss of plantings including four notable trees.

Driving around the hotel block one can see how attractive the overall mixed planting of the area gives an atmosphere of peace and beauty. Christchurch is largely a flat city which has one redeeming feature which is the beauty of its mixed “umbrella” of great and tall trees – a fact seldom allowed for by developers who continually design their buildings to the last centimetre of possibility of allowable space.

The Council planners are persuaded by these concepts and allow them to go ahead. In particular saying the effects are acceptable, no matter how much loss is inflicted on the area or site.

Consent for the Matai/Deans area permission has been allowed for “as acceptable” for the cutting down of an English Ash, a Magnolia Grandiflora, a silver birch an and Alpine Ash… although the report says its missing and in its place a Eucalyptus has been planted. The planner notes “their removal will be a significant loss of vegetation to the landscape.” He also notes that there is the “loss of one of the best Rimu trees (he) has seen in the city boundaries,” But still report notes its acceptable.

The planner notes that planting of new trees which could grow into large enough trees to replace the lost trees is provided and that “this would mitigate to a reasonable extent the loss of the trees.”

This argument can be used to apply anywhere in our city. But the fact is large trees take at least a generation to grow to their eventual glorious uplifted height and the space given to do so and with the unceasing development of the city properties there will be less and less private areas to accommodate a future great tree let alone a group of them.

The city’s umbrella of trees is shrinking and concrete is the replacement. We believe the decision to approve the removal of protected tress and other established plantings, is at odds with the council’s decision to support the recently launched campaign: Let's make Christchurch a National Park City, which amongst other objectives seeks to promote the importance of a Green city having – “better air quality because trees” and the role they play in encouraging, “healthy and sustainable ecosystems.”

4. Visual dominance (refer to pages 6 & 7 of staff report)

We are concerned with the approved apartment building height and consider it will create significant shading and dominance. The maximum height allowed is 11 metres (3 stories) but staff have permitted the apartment complex to be built to a height of 17 metres (5 stories).

5. Parking/ Transport Issues (refer to page 11 of staff report)

Since this application was approved, Central Government has enacted its National Policy on Urban Development, August 2020, where there will be no requirement for onsite parking. If there is limited parking on site this will lead to parking and congestion issues around Christchurch Girls High School and Darvel Street and Matai St East. These National Policy requirements come into effect in February 2022.

6. Questionable Living Areas of Units (refer to page 8 of staff report)

Undersized outdoor living space - very much below the requirements of district plan. 16 square metres is required for each unit - these units have between 4.8 and 8.5 square metres.

Actions Being Taken

In the first instance, we will be requesting a meeting with Dawn Baxendale, Chief Executive Christchurch City Council to formally request a review of our concerns.

We will also be engaging all Councillors/Community Board Members’ Local MP’s, Riccarton Residents' Associations, Civic Trust, Christchurch Girls High School Board of Trustees, and other groups of interest.

Helen Broughton and Barbara Stewart are former Christchurch City Councillors.

Disclosure: Helen Broughton is currently Deputy Chair - Halswell, Hornby Riccarton Community Board and is RMA Accredited for Hearings Panels.

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