Opportunity missed to hear views on controversial housing project

A St Albans couple say the Papanui-Innes Community Board should have sought wider perspectives on...
A St Albans couple say the Papanui-Innes Community Board should have sought wider perspectives on a controversial housing project, including these units on Mersey St. Photo: Supplied
A Christchurch couple say the Papanui-Innes Community Board has missed a key opportunity to hear all views surrounding a controversial housing project.

A petition signed by more than 40 residents was presented to the board earlier this year opposing the design of two developments at 47 Mersey St and 138 Westminster St, describing them as “characterless.”

But Patrick Lindsay and Emma Stilwell, of St Albans, who recently moved to the area, were not approached to have their voices heard before the petition was sent to Christchurch City Council.

One of the key attractions that cemented their decision to move there was the medium density housing developments themselves.

They were warm and dry having been built with today’s building code standard in mind, and provided families with a different housing option compared to “expensive, draughty character villas featuring time-consuming gardens and backyards.”

“These developments create opportunities for more affordable home ownership and rentals that simply do not exist in other cities, and in many other suburbs across Ōtautahi,” they said in a letter addressed to the board.

“It’s close to schools, work and the reviving central city, with beautiful parks and great small businesses.”

The developments, by Wolfbrook Property Group Ltd, consists of six two-storey residential units at Mersey St, and five two-storey units on Westminster St.

Work is already under way at Mersey St.

Residents were concerned the designs of the units were not aligned with character area rules.

A large number of houses were built from early to mid-20th century, consisting of single-storey wooden bungalows.

But city council head of resource consents John Higgins said the properties were not within a character area identified in the District Plan.

He said they are within the Residential Density Transition Zone, where change in the area was anticipated over time.

Lindsay and Stilwell believe the opportunity was missed to listen to the perspectives of first-home buyers, young people, students, migrants and Covid-19 returnees to the country who live in medium-density housing. 

Many were not able to attend community meetings during the workdays.

“We’ve recently become aware that some voices in the community are vehemently opposed to the kind of medium-density housing that has let people like us join St Albans. We absolutely respect the positions of these people,” their letter read.

“We know that many younger couples like ourselves are busy building careers, working while studying or raising young families, which allows little time to investigate local council issues.”

Emma Norrish.
Emma Norrish.
But they were concerned that “the voices of older established households may be overly magnified with this kind of issue.”

Board chairwoman Emma Norrish said the board did not undertake any wider engagement because it has no influence over the resource consent process.

“I absolutely understand their concerns. Unfortunately, as we’ve always said, we can’t have any influence as it’s not a community board process,” she said.

“But we’re really happy to receive that correspondence [from the couple] because with these sorts of things, you only hear one side.”







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