Council left out owner of heritage home in consent for 10-storey hotel next door
Wellington City Council approved the building of a 10-storey hotel and apartment complex without notifying the owner of the heritage residence next door.
The old electricity substation, in the inner-city suburb of Thorndon, had received a civic trust award in 2015 for preserving a character building, and a $30,000 grant from the city council to help pay for earthquake strengthening.
The building, decommissioned as a substation in the 1990s, always provided accommodation as well, and is now the home of the owners' daughter, Caroline Lord, and partner Shane Norrie, who did a lot of the restoration work.
It sits on Kate Sheppard Pl, formerly Sydney St, along from the High Court in Wellington, where the substation's owner, Sydney St Substation Ltd, asked a judge on Monday to review the council's planning process in granting consent for the new hotel complex.
* Apartments and hotel to be built on Wellington Tenths Trust land
* Electrical engineer buys own power substation in downtown Wellington
* City engineer on mission to transform substation
* Building's history fit for film script
* Street chopped in half but no less important
Lawyer Paul Radich, QC, said the man behind the substation's redevelopment, Trevor Lord, understood there would be a new building, but wanted the council to comply with its own planning guidelines.
Lord had asked to be included in the planning process, but was not.
It "beggared belief" that the council decided not to include the owners of the substation, which the council's own district plan listed as a heritage building, Radich said.
The former substation was designed in a style described as mixing Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture. Its interior has since been returned to the original arts and crafts style, with a roof garden.
The proposed new building would wrap around two sides of it, with a three-metre gap at the boundary, and a 6m-wide loading bay at ground level on Kate Sheppard Pl, on what is now an open car park.
If Justice Rebecca Ellis decided the council did not follow the right process, it would probably have to reconsider the developer's application. She reserved her decision.
Investment firm Equinox, which was behind the project in a joint venture with Wellington Tenths Trust, supported the way the city council had dealt with the application.
Radich had been critical of the way the council had apparently put to one side a report from its own senior heritage adviser, who said the proposal would have a significant adverse impact on the heritage value. But Equinox lawyer Finn Collins said the council's planner considered the report and had a different view, so that the application did not have to be notified to Lord.
The council's lawyer, Kerry Anderson, said the district plan did not set height limits around heritage buildings.
The council planner decided not to notify the planning application, so that it proceeded without others having a say.
Anderson said the law was designed to streamline planning consent processes and limited the applications that had to be notified. The council thought no-one else was adversely affected in a way that was more than minor.
The heritage adviser saw the issues from her perspective, and the planner applied his own "lens" and took a different view, Anderson said.