Having had their submissions rejected, Orewa residents fear a high-density housing development will ruin their seaside town.

Sophie Bond

checks out the vanishing view at the troubled Kensington Park site.

Dark clouds gather overhead and there's an eerie feeling something is brewing. Standing on his deck, Fran Connors points out a large stretch of land owned by Kensington Park Holdings - destined for imminent development.

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From here, he and his wife, Debbie, have views of Alice Eaves Scenic Reserve and the sea which stretches far to the right.

Mr Connors has just returned from the hearing of a private plan change sought by Kensington Park Holdings. "They have rejected every single one of our submissions," he sighs, referring to the closing comments by the developer's lawyer.

The private plan change seeks to rezone the 15ha property, formerly a camping ground, as a special zone under the Rodney District Plan. The change will allow up to 690 households on the site, with the possibility of this number increasing by another 5 per cent. Under the plan, five-storey buildings will be permitted and a mixed use area with shops, cafes, restaurants, health and welfare services and a retirement village could be included.

Mr Connors fears that if the plan change is permitted the resulting high-density development will set a dangerous precedent for future construction in Orewa.

"It will ruin Orewa. They're pushing for four- and five-storey buildings. It's too built up and too dense. We hope [the commissioners] will rule to move the buildings further from the boundary or lower the height to only allow three-storeys," he says.

The proposed plans for Kensington Park show the hillside below Mr Connors' house covered with tightly packed three-storey buildings. Down by the already-completed dwellings, a strip of land is designated for four- and five-storey apartment blocks. About a fifth of the site has already been developed.

Mr Connors' submission was one of about 100 that opposed the private plan change. The hearing closed last week and, in their closing statement, the commissioners acknowledged there was "quite a gap" between the opposition's and the developer's positions.

The commissioners are expected to deliver their decision within two months.

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Kensington Park's original developer had assured neighbours like Mr Connors that buildings would be no higher than the grove of puriri trees at the bottom of the site. A plan change would mean the Connors will no longer see the puriri, nor much of the ocean.

The Connors' neighbour, Barbara Ferguson, calls Kensington Park a monster and is concerned the houses will not sell.

She says most of Orewa's residents are "newlyweds and nearly-deads" and would be more interested in buying two-bedroom houses with small gardens, and not the kind of houses Kensington Park plans.

"They are absolutely going to destroy Orewa. It's as bland as hell," she says, going on to say the plan shows houses packed so tightly "you could open the window and pass a cup of tea to your neighbour".

Counsel for Kensington Park Holdings, Bal Matheson, said in his closing submission, the applicant had worked hard to provide a planned community which would benefit, and be considerate of, Orewa.

Changing hands

2006

Kensington Park Properties, headed by developer Patrick Fontein,

buys the site for $38 million

2007

The first residents move in

2008

Kensington Park Properties  goes into receivership

2009

Property investor and developer John Sax buys site from the

receivers of Kensington Park Properties.