Published 15 August 2011
Council planners have tried to redesign the next stage of Flat Bush, in South Auckland, so it accords with better urban design principles. But nice theory ran into harsh practicality at the hearing a fortnight ago as developers expounded on what works.
The main dispute is over the shape of a section in the proposed street grid for stage 2 of Flat Bush, an area covering 342ha to be released in 2 stages.
The council planners want blocks 54m deep in the main residential 3 & 4 zones, with no building in the rear 9m of each section to provide an 18m buffer between houses. That would allow a section width of 15.7m on a 425m² site, 16.6m for 450m².
But major developers Fletcher Residential Ltd & Neil Construction Ltd want the block depth reduced to 50m, and both back & front yards reduced – the back to have its 9m buffer cut back to 3m, the front yard in the residential 4 zone cut from 4m to 3m.
Developers want squarer sections so they can build the houses the market wants, single-storey standalone homes.
This was one of 4 of the more contentious issues put to commissioners Rebecca Macky (chairman), David Mead & Magan Ranchhod, who have the task of not just producing a recommended plan change for approval by the Auckland Council, as district plan hearings commissioners have done in the past, but of making a final decision on plan change 20 which the council would then adopt.
Also contentious were the road network – convoluted, according to one submission; the potential for neighbourhood centres to undermine the Flat Bush town centre; and compensation for the much larger area than expected to be taken for open space & stormwater management.
Ian Craig, manager of Harrison Grierson Consultants Ltd’s urban design division, who presented for both Fletcher & Neil, said the question of lot size & shape came down to the way house are typically built and the outcome for their design if the lot dimensions were inflexible.
Perhaps surprisingly for people who think all developers want to build the maximum on the smallest pocket handkerchief, Mr Craig said Neil Construction wanted the proposed maximum lot size in the residential 3 zone increased form 425m² to 450m², because the density in this zone wasn’t supposed to be quite as intense as the residential 1 zone.
He said the company also wanted site coverage for lots of 325-399m² to be the lesser of 45% of the section or 160m². When stage 1 of Flat Bush was developed, there was an endless stream of applications to the Manukau City Council for consent to go beyond the 40% coverage limit for a variety of reasons, invariably granted.
Mr Craig said this allowance for a larger building would enable single-storey affordable family homes to be built on the larger sections, and would also allow incremental expansion of houses.
He said a house designed for 45% coverage of a minimum 325m² section (26m deep section by 12.5m wide) would have 146m², allowing 3 bedrooms. Cutting the coverage to 40% would allow only 130m².
Counsel for Hugh Green Group Ltd, Matthew Casey QC, said the company had 38ha in the plan change 20 area out of 91ha in the former Donegal Stud property, but could lose 31% (11.7ha) of it to open space & stormwater management, “beyond what is reasonably related to development of the land itself”.
Mr Casey said the company suspected the council had “an overriding agenda to expropriate a large area of the group’s land for public open space & stormwater management areas at minimal cost to the council and at significant loss to the company.
He said the council hadn’t proposed any designation for the land it wanted to acquire “through the subdivision process” and the total far exceeded what would be taken in reserve or financial contributions: “The fact that there is no Public Works Act process or designation means Hugh Green Group cannot require the council to purchase the land.”
He said the process the council intended to adopt – simply rezoning the land for open space or stormwater management – would price compensation at the value of raw land, with no consideration for lost opportunity. The difference for the developer is a reduction of at least 76 sections and possibly 103.
Town planner Brian Putt, for the owners of another 10ha site, Chun-Sen Chang & Hsu Mei Wu, said they’d held it for 10 years awaiting development, only to discover they would lose half of it for open space & stormwater management. Mr Putt said the zoning mechanism meant public infrastructural services would be imposed on private land without appropriate compensation.
Todd Property Group Ltd, which took over developing the plan for the Flat Bush town centre from Melview Developments Ltd (Nigel McKenna), said the roading network would be inefficient & confusing, making it harder for people to get to the centre, and that insufficient definition of what could be built at neighbourhood centres meant they could compete with the town centre for bulk retail & larger supermarkets.
Todd’s strategic planning manager, Neil Donnelly, said no adequate redress had been proposed for poor access to the centre from the south & south-east which resulted from changes to the previous structure plan.
In addition, he said the present structure plan might not deliver the optimum population within a reasonable timeframe: “The timing, location, size, function & physical relationship of centres relative to the development of a residential population are all vital & sensitive design considerations requiring integration.
“If even one of these factors is poorly conceived, the centre will struggle to provide high amenity – and conversely, so too will the surrounding neighbourhoods. Therefore, while a seemingly small matter, I believe the current proposed road system will have a significant detrimental impact on the quality of the overall Flat Bush area.”
Todd is happy with the collector road from the north and wants to mirror that in the south. Mr Donnelly didn’t agree with council staff that this couldn’t be done because some of the roads had already been built (as non-collectors, and the collector a block away from where Todd thinks it should be). He said the solution could be provided by repositioning a proposed stream crossing and having the road veer towards the town centre’s main street instead of away from it.
On the issue of competition between centres, Todd’s main concern is the Murphys Rd neighbourhood centre, which the council planners have recommended should be reduced from 2.5ha to 1.5ha. Already, Mr Donnelly said, Botany Junction with 60 retail tenancies on a 2.6ha site was a powerful centre which would affect the functioning of the main town centre.
Development options at Murphys Rd could provide for up to 16 large-format stores or 35 smaller tenancies, and there was still potential for a large supermarket to be built there unless a size limit was imposed. Todd suggested a 1000m² cap enabling one smaller supermarket in neighbourhood centres, sand a 400m² cap on other stores.
1 September 2010: Melview loses Flat Bush town centre job
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Attribution: Hearing submissions, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.