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Builders struggle to comply with new rules

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2012
Glen Archer
SHANE MORTON/Fairfax NZ

CAUGHT OUT: Glen Archer says Downey Designer Homes customers would not be able to build a home like e its existing showhome in Woodridge under the city council’s new planning rules.

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Politicians say it would take a major public reaction to force changes to new home-building rules which have raised the hackles of Hamilton's building industry.

Council staff and politicians were yesterday scrambling to explain the new rules, aimed at improving design, and how they would be implemented.

Large-volume home builders have added their voice to growing concerns over the impact of the planning rules in Hamilton's northern suburbs.

The new rules prohibit garages being set forward of living areas, require at least one window and the front door to face the street, and also stipulate that clear visibility must be maintained between the house and the road.

The changes are aimed at cutting down crime by improving urban design, but several builders say they are struggling to design houses that comply.

The industry representative body for registered master builders has also written to the council questioning the quality of its consultation on the rules.

Chief among builders' concerns are the number of home plans that may now be non-compliant, and the way many claim to be blindsided by the change.

Former Waikato RMB branch president Colin Bertram has taken up the issue on behalf of members, and said he had no doubt there would be significant cost consequences from the change, and the industry was poorly consulted.

He said the changes could mean extra compliance costs of up to $4000. "It's about working the issue through," he said. "Nobody wants to arrive at the council offices with a set of plans only to find the rules have changed."

Hamilton Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said he had fielded one of the strongest public reactions this term from builders and others about the new rules.

"There is a very large group of people who had a very good understanding of what the changes meant. But you're always going to miss someone," he said.

Unless there was a "sufficiently strong groundswell" of opposition in submissions to the proposed district plan, the rules would remain in place, he said.

"This has been generated by a desire to create a better design outcome, it hasn't been sent here to piss people off. The reaction has probably caught everyone short. We have got to apply a common-sense approach to this, recognising that some people will have signed contracts for specific designs, some land won't be suitable, and that there will have to be compromise."

CHANGES LIKELY TO BE COSTLY

The general manager of Hamilton builders Downey Designer Homes, Glen Archer, said that large volume outfits were also being caught by the rules.

"We've got a $700,000 showhome, and lots of designs, which everyone has, but a lot of that product doesn't meet the new template - in all seriousness, all of them - we've got no plans that are suitable under these rules," he said.

"There are incredible costs to us, because we market standardised plans." However, Mr Archer said the company could custom build for any site.

Other big players in the city's building industry held similar views, he said, but were reluctant to speak out because they did not want their brand dragged into the debate, or feared souring council relationships.

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He said it would be possible to redesign subdivisions with wider sections to accommodate the new rules but that would mean fewer sections, and higher prices.

- Waikato Times

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