'Tension' in leaked design report

LOIS CAIRNS AND RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013

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A leaked government report has pinpointed urban design as a clear source of tension between the Christchurch City Council and the development community.

The report prepared for Environment Minister Amy Adams has yet to be officially released, but an early draft obtained by The Press raises concerns about how the council-established urban design panel is working, including that developers found the process "excessively tortuous".

The issues were highlighted this week when Christchurch property developer Antony Gough publicly criticised the 17-strong panel of urban planners, designers and architects after they issued a report suggesting his design for the former Oxford Tce "strip" was flawed.

Gough's $140 million Terrace project will feature two-storey bars and restaurants around a central piazza, with lanes between buildings and walls of rusted steel and plants.

The panel's report, obtained by The Press, commended aspects of the design but suggested a need for "a level of consistency and cohesion" when viewing the facilities from Oxford Tce.

Yesterday, council planning committee chairwoman Sue Wells rushed to the panel's defence, backing member Jasper van der Lingen's comments that Gough's criticism was unfounded.

She was happy with the way the urban design panel was working and there was no plans to review its role.

"All the feedback I've had has been positive. I've not heard anyone saying it has been holding them up," Wells said.

People wanted good urban design and the panel ensured that happened.

The leaked report said there would be "great benefit" in fostering a closer understanding and working relationship between the council, the urban design panel and the development community.

"Despite the urban design panel being established to provide guidance and assistance, there is a feeling in the development community that the panel and the council's urban design staff take an excessively negative and critical approach to proposals that are put forward, and that the process for resolving the issues can be excessively tortuous", the report says.

Developer Richard Peebles, who has been before the panel about five times, said the panel worked well.

"We have got quite a relationship . . . some of the members can be unrealistic but on the whole they are good."

The urban design panel is an advisory body only, but makes recommendation to the council's resource consenting department.

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- The Press

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