Business owner waits for building consent

21:55, May 17 2013
Mrs Higgins Cookies, Mark Fleming
ONE DAY TO GO: Mrs Higgins Cookies owner Mark Fleming is ready to open, but can't start trading while he waits for building consent.

A New Regent St shopowner is ready to open for business, but can't start trading because he is still waiting for building consent.

The fit-out of Mrs Higgins Cookies is still awaiting approval as the Christchurch City Council struggles to deal with a "massive jump" in building consents.

Store owner Mark Fleming has been waiting since the end of last month for fit-out consent for his new shop, and is frustrated with the wait as he is keen to help the rebuild of Christchurch.

"This street really needs businesses to be open. It is a fantastic destination. It has great potential for the recovery of Christchurch. It is frustrating. The sooner we can get open, the sooner we can get our customers into the street.

"We are ready to go, but we can't trade, we have to wait for all the necessary consents and codes of compliance. It is frustrating knowing we have been ready to go for the last two weeks. This is just a simple little cookie shop."

The council aims to process all building consents in 20 working days. Fleming filed his consent 19 working days ago and hopes to get signed off next week.

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Council building operations manager Ethan Stetson said there was a "very sharp increase" in consent applications for residential repairs and alterations in mid-February.

"It was a massive jump. It was 100 per cent higher than our peak years in 2007 and 2008. That sharp increase extended for five to six weeks until late April and early May. It has started to come off its peak now.

"That spike brought an immediate backlog into our system."

Stetson said there were currently 1755 building consents in the council system, compared to about 800 before Christmas.

About 80 per cent of building consents processed this week were done so on time - in 20 working days or less.

"Mr Fleming quite rightly wants to get going with something and has been impacted by this," said Stetson.

The council was outsourcing consent processing to other local authorities and training up administration staff to process minor applications to manage the increase, he said.

Fleming said he will have to start dipping into his reserves next week when he starts paying rent.

"It's hard to plan. I would like to know a date so I can plan for stock and order all that in. It is very hard to plan when a crucial party can't give you positive details.

"We could have disappeared with our money, but we want to put it back into the town and get the city going again. If they didn't know this was coming they've had two years to plan for this. The rebuild hasn't started in earnest yet."

Fleming used to run the cookie shop from the Regent on Worcester building just off Cathedral Square.

He lost all his equipment in the earthquake, but was fully insured.

The Press