A development plan for a new northern regional centre at Albany in the next decade has been approved.

The adoption of the blueprint by the North Shore City Council comes after a long process of consultation with the public and major landowners of an area that is bigger than the Auckland CBD.

But court challenges are still expected in view of the three-year controversy over the future of this urban centre, which only two decades ago was orchards and paddocks for grazing horses.

The new development rules written into the District Plan take a bold line in trying to achieve a happy mix of businesses, hotels, shops, apartments, and entertainment.

They will be set in an environment of parks and lakes and of tree-lined streets, paths and cycleways linking to the new Albany park-and- ride bus station and the rapid-busway lanes along the Northern Motorway to downtown Auckland.

"It's an immense development that will be the home and workplace of 10,000-plus people," North Shore Mayor George Wood said.

"We are setting rules to achieve a good quality-built design.

"North Shore has been burned by inferior-quality buildings and for the future we want a far better product," the mayor said.

The new rules also try to avoid a conflict between residents of apartments yet to be built and North Harbour Stadium, which already gets 25,000 spectators to games and is likely to expand.

In a radical move, the council will insist on the apartments being sound-proofed to reduce noise coming from outside.

This is in addition to the national requirements of the Building Act and the Building Code for reducing noise between neighbouring units.

"We need acoustic design requirements to reduce external noise to a reasonable level from future businesses, cafes [and] nightclubs," said council senior environmental policy adviser John Duguid.

"It's because we are trying to pitch Albany as an urban centre like Newmarket, downtown Auckland or Henderson - not the sterile place it is at the moment."

Mr Duguid said the council had also pushed areas zoned for residential development several hundred metres away from the stadium and given a buffer of reserves.

Albany residents expressed concern about the height of buildings in the centre.

Heights are generally restricted to 20 to 30 metres in the centre plan but the council has provided a pocket of land near the Northern Motorway which has no specified height limit.

Mr Duguid said the council had beefed up the criteria for considering any applications to build high-rise towers.

It meant the council could decline a building if it shaded residential areas and parks.

Rival groups of landowners and supermarket chains are arguing over how much retail activity should be allowed in the centre.

Westfield New Zealand plans to start building an entertainment centre early next year, with 10 cinemas and 80 shops.

The council plans a new library and a swimming pool complex and a debate is developing on whether the council should move its headquarters from Takapuna.

What's going into central Albany?

* A new retail and entertainment complex of 10 cinemas and 80 shops.

* Homes and workplaces for 10,000-plus people.

* Some buildings of more than 10 storeys.

* Apartments sound-proofed against outside noise.

* Hotels, library, municipal swimming pool and possibly the North Shore council's HQ .