District plan ditches city's front-door rule

A controversial planning rule which would have required the front door of new homes to face the road has been dropped from Hamilton's new district plan.

Independent commissioners Bill Wasley and Dorothy Wakeling yesterday released their decisions relating to the district plan after an extended submission period.

The plan, which came into effect yesterday, no longer requires the front door of houses to face the road.

It also permits 1.8m high fences to enclose front gardens even if the fence is not transparent.

The backdown is likely to please builders and industry professionals who argued the proposals limited privacy and reduced design options.

In their written findings, Wasley and Wakeling said the design of houses in relation to the road and the freedom to use frontage walls creatively "outweighed the intention to make public spaces safer by more visibility from residences".

"As safety of public spaces is influenced by such a wide range of factors, it seemed too onerous to impose so many restrictions on home owners' design choices to achieve this."

An overall aim of the district plan is to manage growth by creating an increasingly compact city in which development is concentrated.

The plan also attempts to encourage well-designed buildings through the use of strong urban design provisions.

Wasley and Wakeling said the district plan gave the council greater negotiating strength to improve layout and design of developments but urged sufficient resourcing would need to be in place to ensure developers were not frustrated and any issues were worked out in a timely manner.

The plan establishes a hierarchy of business centres across the city, with the central city earmarked as the principal centre for employment, retailing, entertainment and business activity.

The commissioners, however, said the council would have to consider a wide range of incentives to attract businesses and services back into the central city.

The district plan alone was "insufficient to turn around the dispersal which has been detrimental to the city as a whole," they said.

Other key decisions include: allowing business operators to establish from home and employ one other person who does not reside in the house; and no height restrictions for buildings in the central city.

Wasley and Wakeling identified several areas, such as Frankton, that needed more attention or consultation, possibly through local area plans that would lead to potential variations to the plan.

The commissioners also said Hamilton's mature tree population had not been sufficiently recognised by the new district plan. They recommended the council consider undertaking a plan variation to recognise the city's tree heritage.