A Tauranga doctor's belief in the sanctity of council planning rules has come "crashing down" by a proposed development she says flagrantly breached the City Plan and disregarded neighbours.

"It's unbelievable, it's actually really disheartening," Dr Kerry Willoughby, of the Farm St Family Health Centre, told a hearing on the application to build apartments and a pharmacy/health centre at Arataki.

She said it was completely outrageous to suggest that a building of such massive bulk and scale, jammed into a residential 812 sq m site, would have minor effects.

The doctors' rooms, in a converted Beazley home behind the Bayfair Shopping Centre, were beside the proposed three-level building at 49 Farm St.

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Dr Willoughby recalled how five years ago, when she and Dr Kevin Giles were building their home, they had to redesign a room that intruded six inches over the daylighting line. It led her to believe that the council held a firm line on what could and could not happen.

"Unfortunately, this belief came crashing down this month."

The Family Health Centre was one of 47 opponents of the application lodged by Farm St Developments Ltd.

Independent hearing commissioner David Mead yesterday heard arguments for and against the development that had a pharmacy and pharmacy-related health centre on the ground floor and eight apartments on the first and second floors, topped off with a roof garden.

Tauranga City Council senior planner Stacey Hikairo said in his report that the mixed-use apartment development should be granted consent, saying that any adverse effects were "acceptable" and consistent with the City Plan.

Sue McArthur of Farm St Developments said nothing would make her and husband Peter happier than for the building to become a new standard of what constituted good urban design for compact living.

She acknowledged that their development was oversized for a typical neighbourhood, but was a deliberate response to the need to do something different in a residential-zoned area that was steadily being taken over by businesses.

"We would not attempt this development in any place but this exact location," she said, referring to the commercial nature of their immediate Farm St neighbours.

The McArthurs' lawyer, Kate Barry-Piceno, said the site was residential by zone name only. She and expert consultants stressed how it was a street in transition.

However planning consultant Russell de Luca, appearing for the Family Health Centre, said the area north of Farm St, while having some mixed-use developments, was still low density in character.

He agreed that mixed use developments were provided for in residential areas. "But this goes far beyond what the City Plan anticipates. The City Plan does not even refer to developments of this magnitude."

Tessa Blackett, speaking on behalf of 18 other Leander St householders living in the area behind the development, highlighted the loss of residential character and privacy from a building that would look like an "enormous box with windows".

They were concerned with shading and loss of privacy. "Our outdoor space is important."

Mr Mead reserved his decision.

Non complying aspects of the development proposal
- Density three times the standard of one unit per 325 sq m
- Maximum site coverage nearly 80 per cent greater than permitted
- Building height exceeds 9m maximum by 1m
- The building's puzzle parking structure encroached fully into boundary setbacks
- Encroached into daylighting plane by up to 6m
- Four fewer parking spaces than standard
Source: Russell de Luka