Council left out owner of heritage home in consent for 10-storey hotel next door

An artist's impression of the proposed apartment and hotel complex - Lambton on Waititi - seen from the bus terminal in ...
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An artist's impression of the proposed apartment and hotel complex - Lambton on Waititi - seen from the bus terminal in Thorndon.

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.

The redeveloped Thorndon substation, in Kate Sheppard Place, has been made into an arts and crafts-style apartment.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

The redeveloped Thorndon substation, in Kate Sheppard Place, has been made into an arts and crafts-style apartment.

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.

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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.

The entrance to Lambton on Waititi will be at 9 Kate Sheppard Pl, with the substation shown at the right of the artist's ...
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The entrance to Lambton on Waititi will be at 9 Kate Sheppard Pl, with the substation shown at the right of the artist's impression.

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.

Before renovation, the decommissioned substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, Thorndon. (File photo)
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Before renovation, the decommissioned substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, Thorndon. (File photo)

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.

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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.

A sign from the building's earlier life as a substation. (File photo)
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

A sign from the building's earlier life as a substation. (File photo)

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.

Project manager Shane Norrie, left, and Trevor Lord, during the work. (File photo)
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Project manager Shane Norrie, left, and Trevor Lord, during the work. (File photo)

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.

During the renovation. (File photo)
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

During the renovation. (File photo)

 - Stuff

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