In June and July a series of guest posts ran on Greater Auckland about Co-housing, and the proposed Co-housing development in Grey Lynn. In summary these posts:
- Introduced the concept of co-housing
- Explained the proposed co-housing development on Surrey Crescent in Grey Lynn
- Noted the planning challenges the scheme faced, being located in a special character area
Resource Consent for the scheme was submitted in March, with the application notified to households nearby in June 2018.
Last week the Auckland Council planning report was posted on their website (PDF – 63MB), and unfortunately the planners recommended the scheme not be granted consent. Note importantly, given the scheme was notified, final decisions will not be made by Auckland Council planners, but by an independent hearings panel. Therefore the scheme may yet be granted consent, though the expert planning reports are given a high degree of weight.
However, the planners report does give a good insight into how planning practice operates in Auckland, and how the internal council processes appear to be lagging behind the vision of the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan.
The development was always going to be contentious, given the proposal is for an apartment style development in the Single House zone, on a site that has a ‘Isthmus A Special Character Overlay’. Therefore the proposal was non-complying with the Unitary Plan rules in a number of ways, including
- Building height
- Height in relation to boundary
- Yard setbacks
- Maximum building coverage
- Numbers of parking spaces provided.
As the subject site was over 2400 square metres, it is reasonable that a case could be made for a more intensive development, especially given the site is located on Surrey Crescent, which has a range of apartment and commercial developments.
What is interesting, and also rather depressing in the planner recommended the Co-house development be denied consent because of the lack of parking provided. This is from the introduction to their report:
I have concluded that the actual and potential effects of the proposal are on balance unacceptable, with particular regard to parking demand in which I do not consider adverse effects have been minimised, managed or adequately mitigated. Having considered the proposal against the relevant statutory documents and subject to new or contrary evidence being presented at the hearing, it is recommended that the application be refused.
The planning report includes all the detail of the proposal ,including parking and transport matters. The report notes the development intends to provide parking spaces for 10 cars, as well as 25 bicycles. The minimum parking requirements in the Single House zone require one carpark to be provided for each dwelling, and as there are 20 dwellings, 20 carparks need to be provided to comply with the rules. Therefore the development is deemed to have a ‘parking shortfall’ of 10 spaces. The report also notes that according to a survey, Cohaus residents expect to own 14 cars between them, plus 2 carshare spaces are provided for. Therefore up to 6 cars are expected to be parked on the surrounding streets.
A detailed traffic assessment was conducted by both the applicants consultant traffic engineer (Flow), and reviewed by a consultant traffic engineer (SCON) working for Auckland Council. The consultant traffic engineers report largely informed the conclusions of the planner, and there key findings were as follows:
Flow fails to take into consideration the potential overspill of parking from the Grey Lynn Parking Zone and as AT explained (to SCON): “the additional demand from the Cohaus development might not have a noticeable effect but that doesn’t mean its right to knowingly add to the problem”. SCON totally agrees with AT.
At present there are moderate to high on-street parking shortfalls at all times as observed by SCON and as described in the public submissions. There will be follow on effects from introducing the P120 restrictions in the immediate area and initiating the Grey Lynn Parking Zone further afield. Ultimately, the on-street parking environment will be fully saturated, i.e. demands well exceed the supply and even one additional vehicle seeking parking would result in spreading the effects elsewhere where there is some spare capacity at present. Based on the above discussion SCON’s conclusion is that the additional demand of six vehicles (not likely to reduce to one vehicle as described by Flow) would create adverse effects and the proposal is therefore not acceptable on traffic engineering grounds.
These conclusions seem astonishing when you remember the engineer is talking about a total of 6 extra cars that might be parking in public, on-street parking! What is especially concerning is Auckland Transport’s role in all of this. They are clearly arguing that these 6 theoretical extra cars parking on-street is going to create a big issue. This seems totally at odds with their high level policies and parking strategies, they surely have no mandate to oppose housing based on minor potential parking ‘shortfalls’. If parking is difficult to find, then some residents will likely give up their cars, and instead use public transport, active modes or one of the share-cars that are available. This is a reasonable response in a city, and not something that needs to be dictated by engineers. Unfortunately this is the continuation of a common theme of Auckland Transport failing to ensure all of their many constituent parts are following the high level strategy of Auckland Council, and even their own strategys. They clearly are in need of some internal reform to ensure this occurs.
The planners report then uses the traffic engineers conclusions, plus evidence from local residents submissions to come to the following conclusions:
Where intensification is identified in terms of plan provisions, with no minimum or maximum parking requirements, there is an expectation that parking demand will in-part be met by on-street parking. The same can’t be said for the subject site given both parking standards and the density (as permitted) anticipated. This will therefore introduce further (unexpected demand) onto an arguably already stretched, scarce and valued resource.
Given in terms of context, the surrounding infrastructure supports intensification (which I accept), that despite the inherent nature of the development, I consider parking demand and therefore off-site effects are relatively high, despite other modes of transport.
Noting all of above, whilst I don’t necessary consider that this creates an ‘unsafe’ traffic environment, it does affect the efficient functioning of the roading network (in terms of seeking to internalise the effect) and perhaps more importantly the amenity on-street parking, including its convenience for local residents.
The proposed parking across to the site is not considered sufficient to serve the proposed activity and will accommodate expected peak demands for the activity, and will result in overspill that would adversely affect the functioning of surrounding roads, and the amenities of nearby persons. Effects are therefore considered unacceptable.
Again, what is amazing from these conclusions is just how much importance has been given to 6 cars parking on public streets. Saying this impacts on ‘amenity’ is farcical. While I’m not a planner, from my reading of the relevant Unitary Plan sections there is nothing that supports this conclusion. If you want to look yourself, the relevant parking rules are contained in this 50 (!!!!) page section of the Unitary Plan.
Overall this shows just how much far the definition of ‘environment’ and ‘amenity’ has been stretched. It is frankly totally outrageous that minor concerns from local residents about use of a public resource can mean that housing for 20 families can be denied consent. This certainly suggests that more reform of parking policy is required to ensure that goals of improving transport and increasing housing supply are not undermined by arcane discussions in regards to parking.
One key issue this again highlights is that just because high level policy is changed, it doesn’t mean that people charged with implementing the policy change the way they do things. Managers and decision makers at authorities overseeing our transport and planning policy clearly need to work much harder to ensure their goals are reflected in decisions made by their organisation.