The decision made by a Hearings Panel on Palmerston North City Council’s District Plan Change 20 makes it easier to build new houses that meet the diverse needs of the city’s growing population. The Hearings Panel was made up of Councillors and independent Commissioners.
The proposed changes to the rules for new housing development covered alternative housing options, design standards, impacts on street character, and the proposed adoption of a Winchester Street Housing Area in Ashhurst. Many of the proposed changes were accepted by the Panel, with some modified as the result of public submissions.
The changes that come about as a result of the decision will only affect new builds and alterations.
As part of the decision, new rules have been established for building multi-unit housing, and a second, smaller house can now be built on a section with an existing dwelling without the automatic need for resource consent. Greater flexibility around building setbacks, roof heights, and outdoor areas will make it much easier for developers to make the most of building sites.
“To be a competitive, vibrant city we need to offer a range of housing options from inner city terraced housing, to two bedroom town houses, to minor back yard dwellings,” says Council Planner Matthew Mackay.
“New housing in the city tends to be three or four bedroom, but increasingly we’re seeing demand for smaller houses – especially among single people, couples without children, and families wanting to house an elderly parent on their property. These changes are designed to future proof our city by allowing for alternative forms of housing while protecting the character of our streets.”
Two of the proposed changes designed to protect street character included new rules for garages and changes to fence heights.
“New garages will now have to be built three meters from the front boundary or five meters from the boundary if the garage doors face the street. This will ensure streets are not dominated by garage doors or blank walls, with houses still visible from the road.”
The proposals to introduce height restrictions for new fences and to adopt a Winchester Street Housing Area in Ashhurst were not supported. The Winchester Street Housing Area will be revisited following further investigation into flood risks.
“The Panel has also recommended we take a closer look at the character of each of the city’s suburbs to ensure our planning rules – such as rules around fences - are not too generalised and meet the needs of our many and varied neighbourhoods. We’ll be starting with a review of the Savage Crescent Conservation Area.”
Other changes include the protection of street trees during subdivision; increasing the minimum section size in Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe and Longburn; changes to planning rules for home businesses, early childcare and other non-residential activities; limits to the number of derelict vehicles that can be stored outside; and new noise standards for heat pumps.
The proposed changes attracted 95 submissions, many of which were in support. The decision was made following a three day hearing in May 2016 and there is now a 30 day appeal period.