Council 'playing God' with new consent rules

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 26/02/2013

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Nelson City Council planning changes have one real estate agent claiming the council is "playing God" and a resource management consultant appealing to the Environment Court.

New council plan changes state that a garage can no longer protrude in front of a house unless it sits four metres back from the road. Buildings must be at least 1.5m back from the road.

At least 50 per cent of the yard facing an unclassified road has to be landscaped, or at least 30 per cent for properties facing classified roads.

The raft of plan changes, put together after consultation with developers, builders and surveyors, came into force on July 1.

The council said then the reason for the changes was to incorporate better urban design by "improving the interface between private and public spaces".

Resource management consultant Mark Lile, of Landmark Lile Ltd, appealed the plan changes last year. It is before the Environment Court, with mediation yet to be scheduled.

Mr Lile said the plan was not flexible enough, and did not take into account the diverse range of properties in the Nelson region.

Those in the central city had different needs from those in other residential areas.

He had a number of clients who were concerned over how the changes would impact their development. The costs to apply for resource consents to differ from the plan were also prohibitive.

"We don't want to create those sorts of problems for people, we would rather they didn't have to talk to us for things like resource consents for front yards."

One retired couple, who did not wish to be named, had a consent for a Sanctuary Dr house rejected because the plan incorporated small front windows, and a garage within the four-metre setback.

The decision said the design and appearance of the house would have an adverse effect on the streetscape and would provide little opportunity for interaction with the street. It would also not make the street safer by enhancing informal surveillance or enabling community interaction.

The couple had to pull out of the property and are now looking to build elsewhere.

Another resource consent for a single-storey house with double garage, again on Sanctuary Dr, was rejected for incorporating a garage design with a blank wall close to the street, which was "not in keeping with the general character of surrounding development".

The council's executive

manager regulatory Richard Johnson said since the rules came into effect, the council had received 17 applications to encroach the front-yard, mostly by garages, and had approved 15.

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The process for the plan change had been robust and involved consultation and opportunities for public input.

The new rule sought to have streetscapes be people-oriented to create social spaces, increase community interaction, and make the neighbourhoods attractive and safe.

The council continued to keep an open mind until a final decision was made in the Environment Court.

Architectural designer Keni-Duke Hetet, who designed the house for the couple, said it was the first time he had seen a resource consent application rejected.

He estimated there were at least 500 sites around Nelson which would be at a size which made building according to the rules, while still being liveable and desirable to clients, very difficult.

Real Estate agent Mike Murphy said unless the rule was squashed it would be detrimental to the housing and construction market in Nelson.

"They are playing God with designs that most people would see as absolutely fantastic."

The rules needed to be thrown out and replaced with rules drafted by people with commonsense, he said.

There would be a lot of problems, particularly for retired people who wanted to be independent but could only afford smaller sections.

Councillor Rachel Reese said the rules were "over-regulation" that were costing individual landowners significant sums of money for very little public benefit.

"When you start to have rules that apply property-by-property and end up being a design critique of someone's house you use the RMA for a purpose it wasn't designed for.

"It's a long bow to draw to say that that house was really so unacceptable that the better decision is to decline the consent and have a vacant section."

It was unfair to apply the rule to existing subdivisions, which could have sections at a size making it difficult for architects and builders to comply.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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