A hearing that could change the face of the Christchurch coastline will start today.
The regeneration of New Brighton, including plans for a cluster of buildings up to 30m high on the seafront, will be debated at the planning hearing.
The hearing into a proposed plan change allowing taller buildings is set to run for three days this week, with 17 individuals and groups presenting a wide range of views on the controversial plans.
The plan change has attracted 220 submitters, far more than a typical planning policy hearing.
Opinions on the plan change are polarised between those who believe the tall buildings will regenerate New Brighton and allow sea views above the dunes and those who believe they will create a barrier between residents and the sea and destroy the suburb's character.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust, city councillor Chrissie Williams and the New Brighton Residents' Association oppose the plan, while Christchurch developer Anthony Gough and a group of New Brighton retailers support it.
The change would see the current 11m limit in the area changed to 20m for residential buildings in Marine Parade for two blocks north and one block south of the mall. The 20m limit for commercial buildings would be raised to 30m for a small area opposite the library.
Residents' association spokeswoman Jan Kenny said the plan change would damage the suburb's character as a "seaside village".
"This is an area where there is not much disagreement over the need for redevelopment," she said.
"Our concern is these plans have not come out of a decent context. The scale of the tall buildings is not guided by context."
The Historic Places Trust believes tall buildings on the seafront have "the potential to erode the existing residential character and amenity of the area" and "could create a degree of disconnect from the beach area -- a key feature for those living in the New Brighton area".
Gough, the chairman of the New Brighton Taskforce which formulated the plan change in partnership with the city council, owns commercial properties in New Brighton that he says will not be affected by the plan change.
"If you are by the sea you have an expectation to be able to see the sea. New Brighton has sand dunes that are about four storeys high, so you cannot see the sea," he said.
"If New Brighton does not have a plan change it will not regenerate, which would be a shame.
"We are not talking about the Gold Coast, with 40-storey buildings. We are talking about eight or nine-storey buildings."
- The Press