Design experts set standard
A three-party urban design panel will consider every building consent application in central Christchurch.
Under the terms of the Christchurch Central Development Unit's central business district blueprint, the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and Ngai Tahu will each provide urban design experts to the panel.
One of them must be available at all times, and the group must turn around applications in five working days.
The panel will not deal with building specifications, such as height and size, only how it fits with surrounding buildings.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the group should ensure Christchurch's aesthetic appeal was retained.
"Because you've got a tighter CBD, you want to have some ability to make sure people aren't building incredibly cheap, nasty buildings in there," he said.
"We want to make sure that we've got buildings built to the very highest standard."
Anchor projects, such as the convention centre, would be exempt from the process, he said, as their land designation meant they were effectively consented.
CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said it was crucial that urban design best practices were followed.
"Given the investment that has to happen here, we don't want to destroy it by poor urban design," he said.
A set of rules was considered instead of a panel, he said, but that may have curtailed innovative development.
"It cut out the bottom - the tilt-slab things that are just really ugly - but it didn't allow the top-end buildings to really be built . . . that you really want to be out there."
Panellists had to be urban design experts and accredited Resource Management Act commissioners, Isaacs said.
"They'll be very tightly restricted about what they can look at. They can look at how a building fits with surrounding buildings and how it addresses the street."
He said building heights would be capped at 28 metres in the CBD, or about seven storeys.
"If you want to go higher, you will have to obviously go through certain hoops," he said.
"So I wouldn't imagine it would be a particularly easy consent to get, but if you're desperate too, you could."
Two hotels earmarked for the convention centre site were exempt from the height restriction, he said.