Wellington City Council Spatial Plan

The Councillors discussed this plan on Thursday 24th June, in a marathon meeting.

Between August and October 2020 there had been a process of consultation following which the Council Officers redrafted the plan, one of the key differences being an increase in the size of the areas in the inner suburbs where the pre-1930s housing would need a consent for demolition. However the Councillors rejected this revised plan and voted to restrict the character precincts to the areas that had been identified in the original Draft Plan. The intention of this is to allow buildings of up to 6 storeys in most parts of Newtown, Mt Cook, Berhampore and other inner suburbs. Here is a link to the full ‘final’ draft of the Spatial Plan debated by the Councillors, and see here for a WCC news story about the plan they have adopted. There are also stories on Scoop and other publications; see here for an outline of the amendments to the plan proposed by Councillors, and how they voted.

This wasn’t the result the Newtown Residents’ Association had hoped for. We have a long standing position that we would like to see larger developments built along the transport corridor and in the suburban centre. However tall buildings in the residential streets, shading the existing 1 or 2 storeys homes, would be damaging to these properties and to the well being of the people who live there. Our wooden homes are warm and dry if they are maintained well, but they need sun to keep them that way; see below for an explanation of why this is so important in Wellington.

Before the Councillors started their discussion Martin Hanley and Anna Kemble Welch spoke to the meeting, reiterating the Red Design plan for higher density housing in the suburban centre. This plan was developed during the 2020 consultation period and has been discussed with Councillors previously. They also presented the Newtown Residents’ Association Position Statement ( copied in full below) on the WCC Spatial Plan, which had been discussed at the Association meeting a few days before, and the statement about the need for sunshine – see the links below. Martin and Anna have lived in Newtown and been Association members since 1981 – Martin is a past President and current Vice President of the Association. They are also architects and urban designers, practising as Red Design, and have been closely involved with the urban design of Newtown for many decades. Their submission didn’t get much traction at the meeting, but the Association intends to continue these discussions as the District Plan is formulated.

NEWTOWN RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION POSITION ON THE WCC SPATIAL PLAN

The Newtown Residents’ Association meeting on 21st June 2021 discussed the Wellington City Council Spatial Plan and agreed on the following position statement:

The Newtown Residents’ Association would like to be able to support the WCC Spatial Plan prioritising Newtown to be one of the first Wellington suburbs where densification is developed. We agree with Generation Zero and Renters United that many more warm, dry, affordable homes are needed in Wellington. We would like more warm, dry, affordable homes here in Newtown, and we would love to be the suburb where the next generation could afford a home. Our Association has spent over 30 years lobbying Council in favour of intensification within our Newtown suburban centre* where 6 storey apartments can easily fit on underdeveloped commercial and industrial sites and in behind our heritage shopfronts. Intensification here puts our new residents right on the transport corridor, with sheltered verandahs, and close walking distance to all our suburb’s amenities. 

Red Design’s** test scheme that demonstrated 6 storey infill housing in this part of our suburb proved that new buildings on only 45% of this part of Newtown can provide 2,000 new homes***. The Association would like the Spatial Plan mapping to enable intense development in the Newtown suburban centre, development that works with the iconic historic buildings and shopfronts. If Newtown’s Spatial Plan intensification mapping was all focused on the suburban centre and the Mansfield St escarpment area used by Red Design, then only 16% of this area would need to be built to 6 storeys for our community to meet the expected NPS UD required growth. Our Association would welcome more homes than required being built in this part of our community. 

Spatial Plan mapping that meant Newtown locals would not need to dispute what might happen next door to their homes or flats is a significant qualifying matter that is the bonus of this approach. If the residential areas outside of the protected heritage and character areas were zoned for in scale up to 3 storey infill (not 6 storey high rise), then Newtown Residents’ Association would then be able to support the Spatial Plan wholeheartedly. Mana Whenua, the Residents’ Association, Generation Zero, Renters United, We Are Newtown, other local groups and members of our community would all be able to collaborate with Council, and focus instead on the District Plan Rules that enable Newtown to take the lead, embrace the Spatial Plan, and to get on with providing additional housing****. 

APPROVED MOTION June 2021: If Newtown’s Spatial Plan mapping for 6 storeys was all focused within the suburban centre and Mansfield St escarpment area, as in the concept plan developed by Red Design, and if the residential areas not included in heritage character protection were zoned for in-scale up to 3 storey infill housing, rather than enabling 6 or more storeys, then the Newtown Residents’ Association would wholeheartedly support the WCC Spatial Plan and would support the prioritising of Newtown to be one of the first suburbs where densification is developed. The Association members would also support in-depth community consultation, where a Newtown place- based zoning exercise identifies other areas of our suburb where our community would approve of additional future intensification. 

*Here 4 storey buildings can already be built without side yards and daylight set-backs between in-zone neighbours. 

**Local Architecture, Urban Design and Social Policy practice embedded within the Newtown Community for the last 40 years. 

Red Design are experts in in-depth community consultation and the driving force behind the Newtown Festival. [Newtown’s intergenerational multi-cultural celebration of place, performance, creativity, culture and community that every year involves nearly 1000 performers and 450 stalls (run by approx. 1200 stallholders) all convened by 250 volunteers and 180 paid crew and staged in the heart of central Newtown]. 

***Three times the number of new homes projected to be required in Newtown over the next 30 years. The proposed new apartments in the test design included courtyards and open space, 82% of the apartments had sun and views on at least 2 sides, 63% were 100 sqm. No heritage buildings were harmed in the making of this scheme. 

****Red Design know of at least 12 owners currently keen to develop their central Newtown properties, 6 of which already have plans underway. But overly restrictive interpretation of the design guide provisions and heritage rules by WCC officers are currently holding them back from intensifying. 

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