Wellington Scoop

Mt Victoria community given no voice in planning decision for eight townhouses

News from Mt Victoria Newsletter
A recently demolished house on the prominent corner of Pirie Street and Brougham Street in Mt Victoria is to be replaced by a block of townhouses that will clash with the weatherboard Victoriana theme of the neighbourhood.

The design comes straight from the 1970s, comparable only to the Noddy houses on the Hataitai side of the tunnel. The eight townhouses will feature walls clad in long-run roofing that the council report said reflected the old Prestige hosiery factory in lower Pirie Street, while the painted concrete walls will match the “Modernist” apartment block next door. The development includes a “folly” tower complete with digital clock.

Planning rules relating to the demolition and replacement of older houses in Mt Victoria, Thorndon and other inner city neighbourhoods have been contentious. The rules now make it clear that any new building should use “materials and facade articulation … compatible with … the surrounding neighbourhood”. Initially there was concern that the inability to redevelop sites would destroy property values, but prices have soared as house owners have lost the fear that something inappropriate could be built beside their refurbished classic house. (From the Brougham Street corner you can see 33 houses valued over $1m.) Recent examples where replacement houses have been required to fit with the scale and style of the neighbourhood had indicated that a proper balance had evolved over 30 years of effort by residents.

The planning system has failed in this case because there was no voice for Mt Victoria. Planning approval was given by a non-elected commissioner on the basis of reports by the council’s urban design adviser Tom Beard who supported a “contrasting, landmark design”, and commended the proposed development as “bold, striking and vigorous”.

The hearing was told “the Mt Victoria Residents Association did not support the demolition, nor the proposed redevelopment. No reasons were given for their opposition.” In fact the residents association had succinctly advised in writing that “we find the design of the townhouses not at all in keeping with the streetscape of Brougham St in particular, and Mt Victoria in general”. The history of residents’ opposition to demolition should be well known to council staff. Neighbours who were allowed to make submissions had concerns about immediate impacts, and also commented on the way the design would clash with Mt Victoria’s character.

Under the planning rules, neither the local community nor elected councillors have a voice, even when developers with no stake in the neighbourhood propose developments that clash with the vision set out in the district plan.

1 comment:

  1. Alan, 2. October 2013, 7:49

    Whatever the appearance of the new block is, there is an important principle at stake here – the increased density of Mt Victoria. Wellington already has a higher than average density in NZ, but we are still woefully sparsely settled compared with overseas cities. We can afford to snuggle up to our neighbors a little more. By the sounds of it, having 8 townhouses where there used to be only 2, means this new development is doing a great job at increasing density. But that is not the only criteria that needs to be satisfied…