Row over 'quaint' cottage demolition

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2012
Julie Hill, Mike Lee
East & Bays Courier

HERITAGE: Parnell Heritage member Julie Hill and councillor Mike Lee outside an historic Parnell cottage which the owner would like to demolish.

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The oldest suburb in Auckland could lose another part of its residential heritage.

Residents, community groups and members of the Waitemata Local Board are concerned about an application before the Auckland Council to demolish a cottage in Lee St, Parnell.

The cottage was built before 1940 and is in a street full of similar style 19th century properties.

Parnell Heritage deputy chairwoman Julie Hill said the group was not consulted about plans for the cottage and believe it has not followed a proper democratic process.

The owner has told Hill the house needs replacing because it is rotten and a council architect had told her it was not of any value.

''But if this house goes, what sort of precedent will that set for the rest of the street? They are like a little row of houses that reflect their origins. The minute you pull it down and in goes a more contemporary looking place, you lose that.''

Councillor Mike Lee agrees.

''It's right that people should be able to have their say," he said. "The council is only looking after the owner and not the community, it's unbalanced."

''It may be decided that the outside of the cottage has architectural or historical merit but that the owner can modernise the interior.

''Lee St is such a picturesque quaint street. That's why I've created a huge fuss. Hopefully we can slow down the process.

''I object to people in Lee St being told nothing about the removal of a significant building right next door to them. It's totally wrong.''

Lee said the council was in breach of its own "special circumstances" criteria.

Section 95A of the Resource Management Act sets the framework for whether the council should publicly notify applications for resource consent.

If special circumstances are accepted in relation to an application, the council may publicly notify it.

Lee said special circumstances applied to the house because it was zoned residential one. It is also a pre-1940 dwelling and the entire street is made up of authentic 19th century houses.  

''This means the destruction of this cottage and its replacement with a modern building will compromise the aesthetic integrity of the whole street.

 ''But even more importantly, surely the council should have the decency to tell ratepayers what's going on in their neighbourhood.''

Auckland Council spokesman Glyn Walters said the council has received a resource consent application for the demolition of the cottage and development of a new dwelling but had not made any decision.

Local boards are informed about applications to remove pre-1940s buildings in residential one and two zones early on in the process and have the opportunity to express opinions on planning proposals before a decision is made, he said.

Parnell community committee chairman Roger Cole-Baker said he'd like residents to be told what the owner intends to do with the site.

''What replaces it doesn't need to be a replica but it's got to be something that is in keeping with the rest of the street."

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