Plans for new Wellington hotel scuppered by heritage building rules

An artist's impression of the proposed apartment and hotel complex - Lambton on Waititi - seen from the bus terminal in ...
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An artist's impression of the proposed apartment and hotel complex - Lambton on Waititi - seen from the bus terminal in Thorndon.

Plans to build a 10-storey hotel and apartment complex near Parliament have been thwarted by a heritage substation next door.

A High Court decision issued on Thursday has led to Wellington City Council reviewing its resource consent procedures, in case the ruling applies to other central city developments too.

The owners of the restored Sydney St substation, in Kate Sheppard Place, Thorndon, objected to the hotel construction because, as the owners of a neighbouring heritage building, they should have been notified about the resource consent.

Trevor Lord outside the old Sydney St substation, after it was quake-strengthened and restored. (File photo)
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Trevor Lord outside the old Sydney St substation, after it was quake-strengthened and restored. (File photo)

The High Court has now ruled that the granting of consent to investment company Equinox Capital was unlawful, because the council's assessment of the hotel's likely effects was flawed.

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Trevor Lord, whose Sydney St Substation company took the case to court, said he was delighted with the decision.

Before renovation, the decommissioned substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, Thorndon. (File photo)
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Before renovation, the decommissioned substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, Thorndon. (File photo)

He was not opposed to development on the hotel site, but he wanted the council to comply with its own planning guidelines.

Equinox Capital commercial redevelopment manager Elliot Knight said it was assessing the decision to see what the rationale for the judgment was.

He would be consulting his solicitor about whether to appeal, or what other options there might be.

The drawing room of the substation after the restoration.
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The drawing room of the substation after the restoration.

There had been a lot of interest in the planned hotel and apartments after it published its prospectus, he said, but sales had been put on hold pending the court decision.

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Council spokesman Richard MacLean said there were varying views within the council as to whether the decision would have ramifications for other developments in the city.

"We just got the decision and are reviewing and checking if there will be implications for the resource consents, or planning for developments in the CBD."

The same room before the work was done.
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The same room before the work was done.

If other developments were affected, the council would then consider its options, he said.

Trevor Lord said the court's ruling was a heartening decision that gave full consideration to the impact of a new development adjacent to a heritage building.

"I'm very pleased. It shows the relationship between new consents and old buildings is respected."

He had spent four years and a significant amount of money to restore the substation and and strengthen it, and he was proud of the result.

His intention in bringing the case was not to deny construction, he said. His major concern was that his views had been precluded before the consent was granted.

"At no time did we ever seek to deny that construction on the adjacent site would take place, but had attempted to seek an engagement toward arriving at a respectful outcome in the relationship of the proposed development and the heritage building. 

"We feel that the decision supports that basic right, and are most grateful for that outcome."

The proposed new hotel and apartment building would have wrapped around two sides of the substation, with a three-metre gap at the boundary and a 6m-wide loading bay at ground level on Kate Sheppard Pl, on what is now an open car park.

Lord wanted a harmonious outcome for both sides, that would allow the buildings to fit together.

The restored substation received a civic trust award in 2015 for preserving a character building, and a $30,000 grant from the city council to help pay for earthquake strengthening.

The building, decommissioned as a substation in the 1990s, always provided accommodation as well, and is now the home of Lord's daughter, Caroline, and her partner, Shane Norrie, who did a lot of the restoration work.

 - Stuff

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