Residents win battle

A WIN: Debbie Dunsford and Norma Bott of the Milford Residents Association are celebrating the news that Milford will remain high-rise free.
A WIN: Debbie Dunsford and Norma Bott of the Milford Residents Association are celebrating the news that Milford will remain high-rise free.

It's A great day for communities, Milford Residents Association chairwoman Debbie Dunsford says.

Plans for a high-rise tower development in Milford Village have been declined by an independent hearings panel.

After five years of fighting developer New Zealand Retail Group's private plan change to allow apartment towers reaching up to 16 storeys, the people of Milford are breathing a "huge sigh of relief".

"It's great that the process actually works and it's not just those with the deepest pockets getting their way," Mrs Dunsford says.

More than 3800 submissions were received on the plan change - an indication of the overwhelming public opposition.

"The people of Milford instinctively knew that this was wrong and we've fought an uphill battle," she says.

"We see this as a great dollop of common sense."

Residents argued that the tower block development of 235 apartments would be out of character for the village and that the current infrastructure wouldn't cope.

In the decision documents the chairman of the hearings panel David Hill says that the scale of the proposed development is significantly different to the future plans for the surrounding residential area.

"The issue here is not whether Milford should be an intensified town centre but whether this plan change appropriately facilitates that end," Mr Hill says.

New Zealand Retail Group chairman Mr Gunton was not able to comment within our deadline but in comments made to the North Shore Times last year he disagreed with the stance taken by residents.

"We can't live in a society where nothing changes and it's all older people and the young people leave the country.

"If we listened to public opinion all the time nothing would ever get done."

But councillor Anne Hartley challenged the developers over their claims that apartment towers fulfilled Auckland Council's future intensification plans.

Ms Hartley says this decision reinforces the direction of council that high-rise towers were never intended for town centres.

"Council have never proposed anything like this and we realise that scale and bulk and urban design are very important."

She says misinformation and scaremongering mean people worry that they will wake up to 15-storey towers next door, which is not the case.

The people of Milford have spent many years and many dollars fighting the plan change, something Mrs Dunsford says has almost been too much for them to bear.

"It's too much of an imposition for a community to have to fight these private plan changes," she says.

Now they have a clean slate, Milford can look forward, and concentrate on having their views heard for the council's Unitary Plan, she says.

North Shore Times