Strict city rules halt development process

A Christchurch investor struggling to get his City Mall plans under way is calling for the strict development process for the retail precinct to be dropped.

Work on the master plan for the precinct has been delayed and developers are increasingly worried about missing out on prospective tenants.

Tim Howe, of investment and advisory firm Ocean Partners, said the outline development plan (ODP) process imposed by the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) had created unnecessary delays and obstacles, forcing tenants to look elsewhere.

Speaking at a recent Seismics in the City conference, Howe said would-be developers had to "play the ODP game", which required people to draw up plans covering at least 7500 square metres in the designated retail precinct area.

"It's a great game but there are no winners," he said.

"There's no way individuals can get together and meet the criteria and put together a plan where one person has control over another person's land."

Ocean Partners had submitted two successful ODPs that could not be implemented because the group could not buy the land required for the plan's laneways.

Despite trying for about two years, Ocean Partners had been "unable to get $1 of development capital away", he said.

The ODP requirement should be removed to allow for a standard resource consent-driven process, Howe said.

"Let us get out of the ground because people are getting frustrated."

He told The Press those with approved ODPs - including his own firm - were now waiting for the outcome of the CCDU-commissioned retail precinct plan by Athfield Architects. Tenants had been lost because of the delays and he was worried about the success of the precinct.

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said a draft plan was shown to landowners and developers in January and a final plan - alongside a separate plan for the southwest end of the precinct - was expected by the end of the month.

The plans would give people an understanding of how the precinct's public spaces would connect with private developments.

Isaacs said the work had been delayed to allow for further discussion with landowners and developers.

"The work by Athfield Architects . . . has recently been on hold, as agreed by both parties, while there is discussion about the scope of services provided. I'm confident this matter will be resolved shortly."

Isaacs said he was happy with the progress being made in the precinct.

Cashel St landowner Paddy Cotter said there were a lot more landowners on the southwest side of the precinct and each had "very different aspirations".

"The threshold of needing 7500sqm . . . is a desirable objective but it's not necessarily easily attainable."

The ODP process had led to "congestion" but it was "too far down the track to turn back", he said.

"I don't think we should be reversing the process but we may well come up with an interim or a halfway house."

Rob Logie, a landowner in the precinct's troublesome southwest block, said developers were waiting for the outcome of the retail precinct plan before they could progress their plans.

He was confident the master plans would solve these issues.

However, the ODP process had been a slow one which meant "suburban offices and developments could get underway a lot quicker".

The Press