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The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday editorial: So much for a home with sun and a view

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Raymond Hawthorne, well known to patrons of Auckland professional drama, lives in the George Court building on Karangahape Rd. Photo / Dean Purcell
Raymond Hawthorne, well known to patrons of Auckland professional drama, lives in the George Court building on Karangahape Rd. Photo / Dean Purcell

Apartment living is supposed to be a large part of Auckland's future. Much of the fear generated by the city's "intensification" plans lies in visions of three or four storey apartment blocks rising next door to suburban homes.

But the experience of one inner-city apartment dweller featured in the paper today, suggests the risks of intensification is not confined to the suburbs.

Raymond Hawthorne, well known to patrons of Auckland professional drama, lives in the George Court building on Karangahape Rd. His fourth-floor penthouse has two big windows facing east to the morning sun and views to Rangitoto. A few weeks ago the council gave consent to a 10-storey tower to be built on George Courts' eastern side.

"It's inhumane," he says. He fears he will be looking out his windows to a blank wall a few centimetres away. No sun, no outlook.

It is the nightmare of everyone who buys a house with a view, which comprises a good proportion of the population of Auckland. The topography and coastline of the city make it generous in that respect.

If the Auckland Council wants to encourage higher-density living over large tracts of the city, it is going to have to ensure that all multi-unit developments are designed with sensitivity to neighbours. Council leaders insist this is being done, that the Unitary Plan includes design requirements as well as more liberal height and site coverage allowances.

If that is so, it needs to explain them more effectively. The planners talk of the plan being less prescriptive for developers, which probably means more liberal height and side-yard requirements. These might indeed facilitate more varied and interesting multi-unit designs than the rectangular blocks most suburban dwellers fear will appear next door.

But equally, it could permit plain tenements to be built higher and wider.

The council wants to see many more dwellings built, as does the Government, and every Aucklander in need of a house they might afford. Property investors do not always share that ambition.

Hawthorne's new neighbour says he has no immediate plans to develop his K Rd site. The previous owner had consent to build above existing levels for 10 years, he says, and never did so. A consent adds value to his investment.

But that is little comfort to neighbours who were not notified of the latest application to build even higher alongside them. Non-notified consent is adding to the Auckland nightmare. The council's planning needs to stop encouraging "landbanking" speculation and see that more housing is built to designs more satisfactory from everybody's point of view.

- Herald on Sunday

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