- Wellington.scoop.co.nz - http://wellington.scoop.co.nz -

It’s agreed – where high rise apartments shouldn’t be built

by Lindsay Shelton
I agree with Guy Marriage when he opposes plans that would allow high-rise apartment buildings in narrow central city streets.

Writing in the DomPost [1] about Wellington’s controversial draft Spatial Plan [2], he said:

Right on Taranaki Street is the place for tall towers – not in the midst of the narrow street network behind. Perhaps the council’s plan for six-storey minimums and 10-storey maximums should be modified to include the words “where appropriate”. Allowing 13-storey residential blocks in the middle of narrow back streets is just plain wrong.

In the grossly over-crowded streets of Hong Kong the tower blocks built for the masses look and feel like prison hell: urbanism done bad. We need to be careful about what the council are proposing and we need to respond.

Similar concerns, and a similar proposal for where new housing should be allowed, have been voiced by the Mt Victoria Historical Society. [3]

We are not against more housing or more affordable housing but such development should be
a) phased, so that it first takes place in areas which need regeneration e.g. Adelaide Road and Kent Terrace
b)actively planned rather than laissez faire, so the Plan does not give rise to low quality, inappropriate development in the wrong places. Building 4-6 storey apartments in Mt Victoria is unlikely to provide affordable housing and will, in fact, expel the many young people currently occupying the large houses currently divided into multiple flats

Removal of the pre-1930s restricted demolition rule from the whole suburb(i.e. there will be no requirement to seek a resource consent to demolish a pre-1930s building outside a ‘character sub-area’ and then to build 3-6 storeys) will quickly lead to the loss of an essential part of Wellington’s identity. The historic housing stock of Mt Victoria and its unique form are used to promote Wellington, not least by Wellington City Council. The suburb is visited and appreciated by New Zealanders and international tourists. Layers of Wellington’s history can be told and reimagined through the houses that still exist. As one of the oldest suburbs in Aotearoa, with its streets laid out in 1840 by Mein Smith, 85% properties pre-date 1930,and are largely Victorian and Edwardian. This means generations of people and businesses who have helped make Wellington what it is. It is part of our collective culture.

The Newtown Residents Association has similar concerns – about six storey apartment buildings being permitted among the old houses in its suburban streets – and a similar plan [4] for where such buildings should be allowed:

We agree that more housing is needed in Wellington and we agree with having a spatial plan that addresses this, but we don’t agree with this plan in its current form. The goal is to deliver good quality affordable housing. Wellington City Council and supporters of the plan talk about wanting ‘Density done Well’, and so do we. However the Spatial Plan states that one of the necessary factors is “Development that integrates with/relates to existing building form and style in the surrounding neighbourhood.”. This isn’t achievable with 6+ storey developments among one and two storey homes.

Buildings of ‘at least 6 storeys’ in the residential streets of Newtown as proposed in this plan would result in losing the very qualities, including sun and shelter, that make Newtown a great place to live. There is an alternative approach that we do support – a proposal to intensify housing along the commercial streets . We have advocated for this for many years, and it has the potential to create a precinct where density can truly be done well.

Agreement all round. Keep high rise apartments out of our character streets – because there are plenty of areas where they could be built without destroying neighbourhoods.

It’s now time for the council to show that it’s listening. Submissions on the Spatial Plan close tonight at 5pm. [5]

DomPost: Reduction in council forecasts of population growth [6]