Environment Court issues PC34 decision
The Environment Court has issued its decision on the PC34 high rise appeal. There have already been some loose news reports along the lines of ‘12 storey buildings to be allowed in Milford’ and this may cause some of you to think that we – the MRA and the people of Milford – have lost this case. Nothing could be further from the truth even although the Court has allowed one building of 12 storeys. We explain as briefly as possible in this letter.
Firstly, as we always knew it would be, the decision is a compromise and has to be viewed in the broad context:
· MRA has always accepted there would be both some residential intensification in and around Milford and some future development on the mall site. We always sought to be reasonable and not opposed to development for the sake of it.
· Our overriding position throughout was that the excessive heights of some of MCL’s proposed buildings were inappropriate and more suited to a metropolitan centre than a town centre like Milford. However, we accepted development at lower heights.
· This could be seen in our acceptance at the Hearing in 2012 where we advocated for residential intensification within a 4 storey height limit, with a decision in our favour.
· With the release of the notified Unitary Plan in 2013, we accepted the town centre heights for Milford of 3-4 storeys along the street frontages but buildings of 4-6 storeys back from the streets on MCL’s site.
· We further compromised during the Appeal process and supported the Auckland Council expert witness proposal that some buildings could be up to a maximum of 8 storeys on MCL’s site. Our MRA considered response to this compromise was guided by legal opinion, that, if we remained firm at 6 storeys internally on the MCL site (as per the Unitary Plan), and contrary to Auckland Council position, then this would both compromise the Council’s case and MRA could appear unreasonable.
We believe MRA has at all times been reasonable and prepared to adjust its position. In fact the Judge complimented MRA and Auckland Council for being prepared to do this. In contrast, MCL did not budge in its proposal at any time over the five and a half years.
So, let’s look at what has been granted in the decision.
The proposal has 8 new buildings, 5 of which fall within the notified Unitary Plan heights of 6 storeys. That left 3 buildings to consider:
Building 5 (at the level of Milford Road but set back some distance from the road itself)
MCL wanted this to be around 13 storeys high. The Court rejected this height as inappropriate and accepted Council’s recommendation of 8 storeys (i.e. 2 storeys over what is allowed in the Unitary Plan but at the 8 storey height of the original Council Unitary Plan proposal).
Building 3 This building would sleeve (or separate) the carpark on Omana Road on the bend leading up to the roundabout with Ihumata Road. MCL applied for 9 storeys but the Court has allowed a lesser height of up to 8 storeys.
Building 1 This building was the highest applied for at 17 storeys and would sit on the open carpark at the lowest point of Omana Road beside the carpark entrance/exit road. Council argued for 8 storeys also for this building but the Court felt that, because Building 5 sat on higher ground, Building 1 could be higher than 8 storeys and in fact at the same height as Building 5. This is the only 12 storey building allowed although this has not been clear in most news reports.
MRA strongly feels we have achieved the best outcome realistically possible. The decision is not as MRA would have wanted, but we have had the worst excesses of height removed from the plan change and we must live with the consequences of a battle well fought. We believe the two 8 storey buildings are still very much in touch with the notified Unitary Plan heights of 4-6 storeys and the 12 storey building is being allowed only because of the large sloping site and its distance away (across the creek) from low-rise housing.
Of course, MRA and many Milford people believe that what is being proposed is still far too metropolitan in nature and should have been reduced even further – and we empathise with that feeling. However, we hope that you can accept the decision, for we have done all that is humanly possible. The committee believes it was never realistically possible to stop any development at all, and we accepted intensification but not including medium and high-rise buildings, and our efforts have always been to moderate and influence rather than block any development and be ignored by the Courts.
Although not entirely happy with the result, after carefully considering the decision, the MRA committee feels we have achieved a great deal and, without our strenuous and time-consuming efforts throughout, we believe the original proposal would have been rubber-stamped by North Shore City Council. Instead, we have been able to work together with Auckland Council to achieve a result that allows for some residential intensification but without such extreme effects on Milford’s character and amenity. Council appear to be sympathetic to our desire for a ‘Village-type’ environment, and we trust this will be reflected in the character and architecture of the final built form.
It’s a shame that MCL have taken such an ‘all or nothing’ and belligerent approach. It would have saved us all some years of effort and the Milford community $100,000.
Decision available to read
The Court’s decision gives a clear view of the decision making process and we recommend you read this. We can send you an electronic copy if you email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MRA remains committed to payment of legal fees of approximately $16,000, and we are continuing our fundraising to pay for these. We hope you will support our Movie Night at the Berkeley on Sunday 9 March at 6.30pm. Email email@example.com for your tickets. We will also shortly launch our Raffle with three great prizes of a $3,000 travel voucher, a $1,000 luxury accommodation voucher and $500 MTA voucher.
The Milford community
We can only express our heartfelt thanks to the community of Milford residents and supporters for their outstanding practical, moral and financial support. We feel MRA and the people of Milford can feel proud of what we have achieved together. We have done our best to ensure the best possible outcome for Milford’s future, one that respects its existing character and pleasant nature rather than attempting to ‘transform’ Milford and risk its character for profit.
We hope all Milford people will contribute in the few weeks to the Unitary Plan submission process (closes 28 February) and Council consultation on the Devonport-Takapuna area plans (this will set up local projects for the next 30 years). There will be a meeting this Monday, 24 February, 7.30pm at St Paul’s Church, Otakau Road, to discuss these plans. We hope to see as many people as possible there.
We hope you don’t feel down - the PC34 Environment Court decision is our success.
Kind regards from Debbie & Norma and the MRA team