Plan changes could hinder upgrades

The tension between preserving Palmerston North's heritage buildings and making them earthquake safe is starting to tell in Cuba St.

The owners of the Cosmopolitan Building on the corner of Taonui St want to make significant alterations, and demolish the neighbouring Oroua Buildings.

A resource consent application to knock down the Oroua Buildings has been lodged with the city council.

An earlier plan to extensively renovate the Cosmopolitan Building and demolish the Oroua Buildings was explored but rejected by the Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club in the 1980s. Current owners Mountain Productions Ltd are worried proposed changes to the heritage section of the city's District Plan will make it more difficult and more costly to alter old buildings in order to give them new life.

Owners' spokesman John Browning has made a submission on Proposed Plan Change 13 that asks for the whole proposal to be withdrawn.

Failing that, the owners want all reference to the Oroua Buildings removed, and less stringent controls on changes to other buildings.

The Oroua building is not listed as a historic or heritage building, but as a "street character" building, meaning its preservation would be desirable.

The Cosmopolitan Building has a Category 2 heritage listing, something the owners opposed.

Browning said while there was no desire to demolish the Cosmopolitan Building; it needed significant alterations.

The plan was to upgrade it for "adaptive re-use", retaining as much of its street appeal as possible, and strengthening it against earthquake damage. The alterations could involve demolition of everything except the facade, with Browning arguing that most of the rest had "no redeeming aesthetic qualities".

The plan change would mean applications to alter the building would be considered "non-complying" activities, which would make it much harder to get a consent than under the current "restricted discretionary" rule.

"The non-complying status is a very restrictive approach in the District Plan and adds an incredible amount of work on the part of the applicant," he said.

He said the change would have "far-reaching detrimental effects" on the ability of smaller landowners to afford improvements and building modifications.

"This will result in precious funding being squandered between council experts and my own."

Further submissions on the proposed plan change closed this week, with all but one of them focused on the difficulties of managing earthquake-prone heritage buildings.

The submissions are likely to be heard by resource management commissioners later this year.

Manawatu Standard