Homeowners' rights to fence upheld

Fencing restrictions proposed for Palmerston North have been rejected by commissioners.
Regan Robinson

Fencing restrictions proposed for Palmerston North have been rejected by commissioners.

Palmerston North home owners have won a victory in the battle against red tape after controversial fencing rules were turfed out.

The rules would have restricted people's rights to build solid new 1.8 metre fences along their street fronts and facing public parks and open spaces.

The idea was to avoid "monotonous" streets where most houses were walled in.

The proposal, raised in the review of the residential zone section of the District Plan, was labelled "silly" by detractors. 

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And after resource management commissioners heard submissions opposing the rules in May 2016, they rejected the restrictions.

They said in a decision released on Wednesday that they had driven around Palmerston North and found many pleasant streets had significant lengths of high fenced or planted road frontages.

They saw few links between fencing patterns, and what could be described as attractive streetscapes.

"While we understand the (undisputed) urban design evidence that the security, privacy and amenity benefits of high fences are illusory, the fact is that a great many people obviously believe otherwise.

"We are not convinced that the proposed rule is necessary."

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Submitter Paul Hewitt, who had described the proposals as more "red tape", said the decision was "beautiful".

"Do we have a problem? I don't think so," he said.

"There are enough obstacles to everyday life – we need to reduce barriers, not increase them."

Architectural designer Michael Jarvis said people had been "quite upset" about the proposed fencing rules, that would have been impossible to enforce.

"It was the council almost dictating how people will live.

"I'm relatively impressed that they listened," he said.

Council planner Matthew Mackay said the commissioners' decision meant people could have 2m fences around their boundaries so long as they complied with the Building Act.

He said the commissioners had acknowledged the importance of good urban design, and the council would continue to offer people information and advice on the benefits of encouraging interaction between the street and houses.

As well as the fencing rules, proposals restricting the location of garages were a key issue in the review.

The council had proposed garages should be set back 1.5m from the front of the house, to avoid streets being dominated by garages.

But the commissioners found the proposal did not cater for layouts where vehicles entered a garage from the side, not directly from the street.

The final decision was that garages should be set back 3m from the frontage, and 6m where the garage faced the street, to allow room to park a vehicle in front without extending on to the footpath.

Mackay said the plan change would make it easier for people to build a variety of housing to cater for different needs, including multi-unit housing, or a second dwelling on a residential section.

"To be a competitive, vibrant city we need to offer a range of housing options from inner city terraced housing, to two bedroom town houses, to minor back yard dwellings."

That would help overcome the problem that most new houses were being built with three or four bedrooms, while there was growing demand for smaller units from single people, couples without children, and older people. 

Several submitters raised concerns about the impact of infill on the character of some city streets.

The commissioners recommended council planners do further study to identify special character or heritage areas that should be protected. 

Mackay said that process would start with a review of the Savage Cres conservation area.

There were 95 submissions on the plan change. Submitters have 30 working days in which to appeal.

 - Stuff

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