Small landowners face pressure
Christchurch's new city centre retail precinct will be modelled on Melbourne's laneways and public spaces - and affected property owners have little choice in the matter.
The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority says it will compulsorily buy city centre sites bounded by Hereford, Oxford, Lichfield and High streets "once all other options are exhausted" to ensure the retail precinct has the look and feel of the Australian city, rated one of the most liveable in the world.
New quake recovery rules require retail developments to be planned in 7500-square-metre lots, which is about a third of a city block.
A landowner with a site smaller than the required lot size will have to submit a development plan for the surrounding 7500 square metre block to get permission to build on their land.
Subsequent applications from landowners in the block will have to amend or comply with the plan.
The rule is designed to encourage the creation of laneways through city blocks, more public spaces and streamlined delivery vehicle access to stores to improve pedestrian safety.
Some landowners fear the new rule could require complicated deals between multiple title holders and will have a negative effect on owners of smaller sites.
City centre landowner Miles Middleton, who owns three small sites in the retail precinct, fears he will not be able to develop a building on his own site independently.
"This creates a lot of uncertainty because if everyone can't agree, Cera will step in. If all our sites were on one site we would be quite happy, but we have to deal with lots of neighbours now," he said.
"If one landowner doesn't agree, then the land could be taken away from them. If they do agree, I am not sure about the funding and how it will be done."
But one landowner with large holdings in the precinct said it would ensure small landholders "can no longer hold people to ransom".
Central city landowner Anthony Gough, whose family own about 7500 square metres of land in the precinct, welcomed the new rule.
"If you are a small land holder you will be worried as heck, but if you are a big land holder it doesn't matter a hoot," he said.
"People with small parcels will be worried as they can no longer hold people to ransom. This is so important for Christchurch. To get the city up and running again we have to do something dramatic. It will bring smaller landholders to heel."
Colliers national director for real estate management Evan Harris said the new rule was creating confusion among landowners. It was likely Cera would have to use their purchase powers.
"The only way it will happen is if they use their powers. Otherwise, one guy can destroy the development. Cera may have to step in. Is that fair to a guy who wants to develop a site he owns? It is very hard to understand how it will work."
A CCDU spokesman said acquisition powers would only be used as a "last resort" to help recovery.
"The [CCDU] is working with landowners encouraging them to talk with their neighbours about the benefits of a co-operative approach to the development of the retail precinct. When required, CCDU will act as a facilitator to assist property owners through the planning process.
"Although compulsory acquisition of properties is a possibility, it is a last resort and will only be considered once all other options are exhausted."
Anderson Lloyd partner Lauren Semple, who worked on the blueprint for Cera, said the rule should not concern landowners.
"It is not as high a barrier as people first think . . . you could do an outline development plan and just develop your site.
"There are a variety of ways it could work, but the most straightforward way is when you have agreement [from all the landowners affected by the plan]."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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