Property developer appeals Auckland Council's decision to protect historic hall video

MANDY TE / STUFF

Permission to demolish St James Hall has now been taken to Environment Court after resource consent was denied.

A developer is taking Auckland Council to court after it refused consent to demolish a decrepit historic church hall.

In August Auckland Council refused to grant developer View West consent to demolish St James church hall in Mt Eden, a property with a 2014 council valuation of $3.8m.

View West is now appealing the decision at the Environment Court.

Civic Trust Auckland president Allan Matson says the St James church hall can and should be saved.
MANDY TE/STUFF

Civic Trust Auckland president Allan Matson says the St James church hall can and should be saved.

Built in 1885 and 1900 respectively, the St James church and church hall are category B places under the Unitary Plan.

The buildings were last used by a Pacific Island Presbyterian Church congregation. In November 2014, the church's minister Ngatokotoru Ine said the cost of repairing the buildings was too much, so it decided to sell the site.

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The St James church hall was first built in 1885.
MANDY TE/STUFF

The St James church hall was first built in 1885.

View West has a conditional agreement to purchase the site at 31 Esplanade Road.

Council refused consent because it would result in "adverse historic heritage effects" which would impact on the environment. 

It was also contrary Unitary Plan policies, did not promote the "sustainable management of natural and physical resources" and structural strengthening of the hall was possible.

"It's a futile effort to say it has no heritage value," Matson says.
MANDY TE/STUFF

"It's a futile effort to say it has no heritage value," Matson says.

View West chief executive Andrew Montgomerie said he was initially interested in converting St James church and hall into residential apartments. Council granted consent last year.

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But after an assessment by structural engineer Oisin Frost, he felt the hall was "beyond viable economic repair", Montgomerie said in a statement of evidence.

At a hearing, Montgomerie and his legal counsel discussed the hall's Dangerous Building Notice, the hall's "poor state", "unreinforced soft concrete" and how "the seismic performance was likely to be less than 5 per cent".

The hall was issued with a Dangerous Building Notice in 2012.

The church building had more significant heritage values than the hall and it would only go ahead with the development if the hall was allowed to be demolished, Montgomerie said.

Civic Trust Auckland and Heritage New Zealand also submitted evidence at the hearing.

Heritage New Zealand adviser and planner Rebecca Vertongen said demolishing the hall would result in "unacceptable adverse historic heritage effects" and it was "contrary to the policies of the Unitary Plan".

"The hearing was important because it was the first scheduled building to be considered for demolishment consent under the Unitary Plan," Civic Trust Auckland board member Helen Geary said.

Civic Trust Auckland president Allan Matson has a background in architecture and at the hearing, he provided alternative ways to use the hall.

"It's a futile effort to say it has no heritage value," Matson said.

"The hall is capable of adaptive reuse."

He used the original Mt Eden Borough Council Chambers and fire station as an example. The chambers were built in 1912 and the fire station next door was built in 1924.

The building has now become six apartments, including a penthouse within the original chambers.

View West will be going to the Environment court to seek the granting of demolition consent and costs.

View West said it was appealing council's decision because it was not consistent with the Unitary Plan.

It also failed to achieve principles of the Resource Management Act and did not sufficiently taking into account how the proposal can provide for the protection of the St James Church.

Andrew Montgomerie could not be reached for comment.

 - Stuff

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