Auckland Council's poor reputation on heritage has taken another hit - this time for allowing billboards on an apartment building overlooking a block of historic shops in the inner city.
Independent planning commissioner Karyn Sinclair has granted permission to Hafan Property Investments to put four billboards on the Citta Apartments building on the corner of Symonds St and Khyber Pass Rd after a previous application was declined and a council officer recommended the latest application be declined.
Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers has called it an "outrageous planning decision". The tenants and owners of the 110 units in the Citta Apartments were not consulted by the council.
The six-storey building is on a busy intersection facing a largely intact block of Victorian and Edwardian shop buildings, for which the Eden Terrace Business Association is seeking mainstreet status to add to its character status.
In a strongly worded letter to the council's legal counsel, Wendy Brandon, Mr Chambers said billboards were inappropriate on the building.
"It took years to get the illegal signage off the tavern diagonally across the road on a heritage building to improve the Upper Symonds St amenity," the letter said.
Mr Chambers cited the case as an example for giving local boards a bigger say in resource consent applications, including billboard applications.
Council planner Purnima Naidu recommended the application be declined, saying: "The billboards will create a more than minor adverse cumulative visual dominance and amenity effects on the surrounding streetscape and built environment."
Ms Sinclair, however, took a different view: "The relationship of the Citta building with the character of older buildings within the Upper Symonds St character overlay area is fractured by the width of the transport corridor and this helps to ensure that the character of the area is not compromised by the location of the billboards."
She approved three billboards on the wall facing the Symonds St-Khyber Pass Rd intersection and the fourth billboard on the Khyber Pass Rd wall. The largest is 5.15sq m.
Act leader Don Brash, who owns a Citta apartment, said he had received a letter from the building management to say they were not enthusiastic about the billboard issue but had no legal powers to stop it. He said he would be angry if the billboards blocked the view from his apartment.
A lawyer acting for the body corporate, Timothy Bates, has written to the council saying it "strongly objects to the installation of the proposed billboard signs" and planned to challenge the decision.