UK may give housing lead

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 30/10/2012
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Hundreds of wheelie bins, "eco-bling" and hectares of car parks.

British housing developments are showing Christchurch what to avoid in the city's rebuild, as well as providing some inspiration.


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Organisers of a housing design competition for Christchurch have visited about six British developments that they hope will influence the look and feel of the new central city.

An international design competition to build an urban village of about 50 houses in the city centre has already attracted more than 300 expressions of interest from around the world.

The competition is for a one-hectare site near the northeastern corner of Latimer Square.

Christchurch City Council sustainability adviser Tony Moore is involved in the competition and visited the British schemes.

He said the British projects could help Christchurch understand how high-density housing worked in the rebuild.

"One of the key benefits was to see physically how the buildings and the spaces in between work, and talk to the residents about their experience of living in those places and how the social dynamics work," he said.

"There were some examples that on paper sounded good but weren't quite right. Some of the places were designed for lots of people without any consideration for cafes or childcare or social amenities."

Moore said some of the worst housing sins were large car parks in the middle of developments, building materials like wooden cladding that could not be maintained, wheelie bins crowding public spaces and unnecessary sustainability features, which he called "eco-bling".

"A car park just becomes a very large hard surface in the middle of the neighbourhood. They take up these huge spaces that are very rarely used," he said.

Moore admired a scheme developed by British design guru Kevin McCloud, who will help judge the Christchurch housing scheme. The car park in the scheme doubled as an orchard.

"You need access to communal spaces - seats and trees and a barbecue. You need to build in the communal spaces so you have a good quality of life at a higher density," Moore said.

Beacon Pathway general manager Nick Collins, who is also involved in the Christchurch housing competition, helped organise the study tour.

"We learnt how not to do things and the shortcomings of developments," he said.

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"We saw an enormous amount of rubbish bins. You need communal rubbish bins rather than three for each home [in large housing developments]."

Moore hopes the winning housing design will dispel fears about high-density living.

"There are perceptions of a loss of lifestyle with inner-city living," he said.

"This design competition will challenge those fears.

"It is possible to live in higher density and have a good quality of life."

Council staff are reviewing planning rules for residential development before the rebuild, while Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority staff hope to send plans on the location of central-city housing to the relevant Cabinet ministers next week.

- The Press

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