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Auckland Unitary Plan Change 26 Special Character Areas Residential Overlay


1. PROPOSED PLAN CHANGE 26 TO THE AUCKLAND UNITARY PLAN. The deadline for submissions has been extended to 11 July 2019. 

Property owners in Remuera may have received a letter from Auckland Council if the council deems their property to be directly affected by the proposed changes. The Plan Change was notified on 30 May 2019. Submissions now close on Thursday 11 July 2019. The plan change is a policy response by Auckland Council to an Environment Court declaration to clarify how the Special Character Areas Overlay – Residential (SCAR) - works with underlying zones eg the Single House zone which covers a large area of Remuera. Auckland Council are proposing the rules, standards and provisions of the Special Character Areas Residential Overlay prevail over those of the underlying zone, e.g.Single House zone. 

2. Plan Change 26 

2.1. In general, Remuera Heritage supports the intention to clarify the difficulty and confusion that exists around having two sets of standards, activities and provisions applying where there is both the Special Character Areas Residential Overlay and an underlying zone. The proposed change appears to support the protection of special character and heritage through recommending that the provision in the Special Character Areas Overlay will prevail over the corresponding provision in the underlying zone. However, in actual fact, the SCAR Overlay is less restrictive in allowing anyone wanting to develop their property greater freedom to do so. It is not clear how the proposed change will assist owners who want to protect the character and amenity of the Special Character Area where the Single House Zone also applies. It allows more lenient rules about heights and yards, which will lead to much greater density, bulk and heights to the side and rear of properties. 

 2.2. For example: 

 2.2.1. Height to Boundary: The Special Character Area Overlay rule for height in relation to boundary defines the envelope based on a 3 metre vertical height and then a 45 degree incline, where the sites have a road fronted boundary less than 15 metres in width. This is far more imposing than the standard of the Single House Zone which is based on a 2.5 metre vertical height and then a 45 degree incline. The outcome of this proposed more lenient rule is that buildings can be built higher with great bulk and visual impact. It is not clear why bulkier houses should be allowed when the width of the property is less. 

2.2.2. Rear Yard: In the rear yard the proposal is to reduce the current 3 metre boundary to just 1 metre. This will allow building to occur only one metre from a neighbour’s boundary and will have a significant visual and privacy impact on neighbours. Relaxing the 3 metre setback for the rear yard will have a highly detrimental impact in areas where sections near corner junctions have rear yards adjacent to side yards. By allowing the Character Overlay to predominate, it puts neighbours in special character and heritage areas at a disadvantage from those in the single house zone without an overlay. These neighbours will be impacted by more encroachments into their side and rear privacy.  

2.3. The size and scale of more development to the side and rear of houses in the SCAR Overlay will add visual bulk that will detract from the character features of the area. The plan change will result in the original fronts of heritage houses being dwarfed and dominated by large rear and side developments. This will allow a form of facadism and is not genuine heritage protection. 

2.4. Remuera Heritage opposes the intention to reduce the requirement for sufficient space to be provided in rear yards in order to separate housing and ancillary buildings from the rear boundary of a site. Remuera Heritage submits that the current 3 metre rear yard should be retained. This will maintain character and amenity values in the area. Having rear yards of only 1 metre will reduce the privacy, tree cover, landscaping, views and general amenity of neighbours and neighbourhoods. 

2.5. Environmental effects and privacy. The plan needs to take into account the effects of development on neighbours as well as on streetscape. In particular, we wish to note that when special character and heritage houses were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, privacy was much easier to maintain. Then there was significantly less light, air and noise pollution from radio, television, music, technology, outdoor living, recreational facilities and traffic. We want to retain respect for our neighbours and social and community wellbeing in the 21st century. These are now universally acknowledged as being of primary importance to a healthy society. The more restrictive requirements should apply regarding rules, standards and provisions which affect these environmental factors in our communities. 

 2.6. Also, Remuera Heritage does not support anything which will make special character and heritage buildings more easily able to be demolished and special character areas to be eroded.  

2.7. Remuera Heritage wants all neighbours in special character areas to be notified when there is development proposed on their boundary. 

3. In summary, the proposed plan change 26 is less about protecting special character and heritage and more about protecting individual property rights to develop character / heritage houses to the detriment of neighbours, community wellbeing and zoning values in traditional areas like Remuera. Remuera Heritage seeks that the underlying zone, the Single House zone, prevail over the rules, standards and provisions of the Special Character Areas Overlay, where both are applicable. 

Note that Auckland Council are proposing the rules, standards and provisions of the Special Character Areas Residential Overlay prevail over those of the underlying zone, e.g.Single House zone. You can read the council's statement here -

You can make a submission here. The deadline is Thursday 11 July 2019.