Residents opposing a plan to build high-rise apartments at the Milford shopping centre are celebrating a "shift in position" by city planners that supports their concerns about preserving the village's character.

But the change of heart midway through the hearing process has prompted a lawyer's letter from the developer to the commissioners' panel, expressing serious concerns.

Milford Centre Ltd is seeking a district plan change to enable the mall to take nine apartment buildings from four storeys to 16 storeys, or 63m high.

The panel heard evidence from 60 submitters last month and will sit again on October 2 to hear council officers' comments on the evidence and Milford Centre Ltd's right of reply.


The council planning team's pre-hearing report recommended the plan change be approved subject to several amendments.

But in his new comments, team leader Ewen Patience said that after reflecting on the evidence, he had been persuaded to shift from the original position he thought was appropriate at the time.

One question was how high-density growth in the Auckland plan should be interpreted for the plan change.

The company had said the plan suggested that building heights of eight storeys or more were anticipated in Milford, as it was selected as a town centre.

But the Milford Residents' Association raised concerns with council officers after the hearing that the Auckland plan was yet to be given effect in the district planning rules.

Association co-leader Debbie Dunsford said the new report backed that view, as well as insisting on lower buildings and strong controls on what could be built there.

"The officers gave the panel strong reasons why it should not go ahead."

The NZ Retail Property Group venture said at the hearing that if the plan change did not go ahead unaltered, it would do something else with the 2.9ha site.


The company's lawyers, Russell McVeagh, wrote to the panel saying NZ Retail Property had serious concerns with the statement by Mr Patience and wanted to know what council urban design expert Sarah Lindsay thought of it.