“Planning For Successful Cities”: NPS on urban development out for consultation [1]: Background

Earlier this week the Government (HUDA and MFE) released a discussion document on its proposed National Policy Statement on urban development. Consultation is now being undertaken in relation to the issues raised in the document, until 10 October 2019 at 5 pm.

The key issue raised in the DD is that significant problems exist in current urban planning and growth that are producing negative outcomes such as severe housing unaffordability, falling home ownership, increased hardship and homelessness, increased household debt, intergenerational inequality, congestion, poor transport choice and urban pollution. The Government therefore proposes its Urban Growth Agenda to provide the improvements needed to address issues such as these. It suggests some important issues that it aims to address are reducing car dependency, fixing the present broken system for funding and financing infrastructure, and ensuring central government works more closely with local government, the private sector and communities.

The following is a summary of the chapters in the DD and my responses to it. These responses will form the basis of my submission that I intend to produce for this proposal. Christchurch is one of the key growth areas identified in the government’s press release and public transport forms a key part of the solutions needed in the city. At the same time there is existing and substantial concern that the last government’s pro-developer agenda expressed through the combined impacts of the replacement District Plan and the Resource Management Act amendments pushed through in 2009 have gone too far in their impact on neighbourhoods.

As we already know, recent governments have attempted to fund ways to promote increased housing development in the major centres to increase the housing supply but this has produced quite a mixed bag of results with concerns particularly identified over National’s policy shift promoted as “reducing red tape” that has given developers greatly increased rights to develop without considering the impact on the environment such as through increased vehicle traffic in existing streets, removing trees, lack of carparking on site, etc. There have been numerous higher density housing developments recently in Christchurch that have created these concerns, but a much bigger one currently occurring in Merivale is the expansion of a local shopping mall which is likely to end up in court because the impacts are far from being “less than minor”.

The newspaper reporting on this NPS release has suggested this is “a government plan to sideline nimbys” and this could be a problem if it is an accurate statement. I am certainly hoping this proposal is a reasonably balanced one. Whilst it is undeniable that intensification of housing is always going to create challenges for some residents, the worst cases in Christchurch to date have resulted from the District Plan requirements being regularly flouted and concerns over streets becoming clogged with traffic and parked vehicles. Since the release refers to “high quality streets, neighbourhoods and communities” I certainly hope this is adequately addressed. Another issue that is important to be addressed is social housing development. Housing New Zealand is a key concern with their post-earthquake trend of pushing through many new complexes in parts of the City and changes in their tenant case management since the change of government, but CCC’s SH developments are also capable of creating similar challenges.

This NPS is expected to replace National’s NPS-UDC from 2016, by broadening its focus and adding significant new content. The key relevance for Christchurch is the existing Urban Development Strategy which has in turn resulted in some key initiatives taken by the preceding National government. The key ones which were relevant are:

  • Changes in the District Plan to produce increased intensification in various areas of the city.
  • Developing the Southern Motorway to enable faster road transport to/from Selwyn District.
  • Developing the Christchurch Northern Corridor motorway to speed up road transport to/from Waimakariri District.

These have all raised their own issues. Intensification has already been mentioned above. The key issues with the motorway developments have varying impacts. The Southern motorway project has been largely focused in recent years on bringing the existing SH76 through to join SH1 at Weedons, creating a bypass of the main urban areas of the south-west of Christchurch, so that freight and passenger vehicles can reach the city more quickly and conveniently from Selwyn District. SH76 joins onto Brougham Street, the main arterial route for freight to and from Port of Lyttelton. As this area has been intensively developed along these lines for decades, there has not been too much of an issue with the motorway expansion, which on SH76 itself has seen widening to four lanes completed just after the earthquakes, west of Barrington. However, the last National Government put forward an election campaign proposal to four lane SH1 from Rolleston to Ashburton which was dropped by the incoming Labour administration and has raised some local controversy. West of the city, SH1 which has run on that route for many years via Russley Road and Johns Road, was widened to four lanes and a bypass was built to go around Belfast at the northern end, the roundabout at the Memorial Avenue intersection was replaced by an overbridge and on/off ramps, the bridge with its large arches being a prominent landmark in the area. The Christchurch Northern Corridor, currently nearing completion has been the most controversial proposal. Although it runs mostly through greenfield land and the designations have been in place for decades, it will funnel a large volume of traffic into the existing roading network through Cranford Street and St Albans Residents Association has been highly active in campaigning against it and this is ongoing at the time of writing.

A key part of the counter proposals to address the impact of the CNC has been the proposals to develop a rail passenger service between the City and Rangiora and this has been well addressed by this blog and the campaign will continue. I will share some thoughts about the upcoming elections and the possible impacts in my next post. The NPS discussion will continue in part [2] of this series/

 

 

"Planning For Successful Cities": NPS on urban development out for consultation [1]: Background

Earlier this week the Government (HUDA and MFE) released a discussion document on its proposed National Policy Statement on urban development. Consultation is now being undertaken in relation to the issues raised in the document, until 10 October 2019 at 5 pm.

The key issue raised in the DD is that significant problems exist in current urban planning and growth that are producing negative outcomes such as severe housing unaffordability, falling home ownership, increased hardship and homelessness, increased household debt, intergenerational inequality, congestion, poor transport choice and urban pollution. The Government therefore proposes its Urban Growth Agenda to provide the improvements needed to address issues such as these. It suggests some important issues that it aims to address are reducing car dependency, fixing the present broken system for funding and financing infrastructure, and ensuring central government works more closely with local government, the private sector and communities.

The following is a summary of the chapters in the DD and my responses to it. These responses will form the basis of my submission that I intend to produce for this proposal. Christchurch is one of the key growth areas identified in the government’s press release and public transport forms a key part of the solutions needed in the city. At the same time there is existing and substantial concern that the last government’s pro-developer agenda expressed through the combined impacts of the replacement District Plan and the Resource Management Act amendments pushed through in 2009 have gone too far in their impact on neighbourhoods.

As we already know, recent governments have attempted to fund ways to promote increased housing development in the major centres to increase the housing supply but this has produced quite a mixed bag of results with concerns particularly identified over National’s policy shift promoted as “reducing red tape” that has given developers greatly increased rights to develop without considering the impact on the environment such as through increased vehicle traffic in existing streets, removing trees, lack of carparking on site, etc. There have been numerous higher density housing developments recently in Christchurch that have created these concerns, but a much bigger one currently occurring in Merivale is the expansion of a local shopping mall which is likely to end up in court because the impacts are far from being “less than minor”.

The newspaper reporting on this NPS release has suggested this is “a government plan to sideline nimbys” and this could be a problem if it is an accurate statement. I am certainly hoping this proposal is a reasonably balanced one. Whilst it is undeniable that intensification of housing is always going to create challenges for some residents, the worst cases in Christchurch to date have resulted from the District Plan requirements being regularly flouted and concerns over streets becoming clogged with traffic and parked vehicles. Since the release refers to “high quality streets, neighbourhoods and communities” I certainly hope this is adequately addressed. Another issue that is important to be addressed is social housing development. Housing New Zealand is a key concern with their post-earthquake trend of pushing through many new complexes in parts of the City and changes in their tenant case management since the change of government, but CCC’s SH developments are also capable of creating similar challenges.

This NPS is expected to replace National’s NPS-UDC from 2016, by broadening its focus and adding significant new content. The key relevance for Christchurch is the existing Urban Development Strategy which has in turn resulted in some key initiatives taken by the preceding National government. The key ones which were relevant are:

  • Changes in the District Plan to produce increased intensification in various areas of the city.
  • Developing the Southern Motorway to enable faster road transport to/from Selwyn District.
  • Developing the Christchurch Northern Corridor motorway to speed up road transport to/from Waimakariri District.

These have all raised their own issues. Intensification has already been mentioned above. The key issues with the motorway developments have varying impacts. The Southern motorway project has been largely focused in recent years on bringing the existing SH76 through to join SH1 at Weedons, creating a bypass of the main urban areas of the south-west of Christchurch, so that freight and passenger vehicles can reach the city more quickly and conveniently from Selwyn District. SH76 joins onto Brougham Street, the main arterial route for freight to and from Port of Lyttelton. As this area has been intensively developed along these lines for decades, there has not been too much of an issue with the motorway expansion, which on SH76 itself has seen widening to four lanes completed just after the earthquakes, west of Barrington. However, the last National Government put forward an election campaign proposal to four lane SH1 from Rolleston to Ashburton which was dropped by the incoming Labour administration and has raised some local controversy. West of the city, SH1 which has run on that route for many years via Russley Road and Johns Road, was widened to four lanes and a bypass was built to go around Belfast at the northern end, the roundabout at the Memorial Avenue intersection was replaced by an overbridge and on/off ramps, the bridge with its large arches being a prominent landmark in the area. The Christchurch Northern Corridor, currently nearing completion has been the most controversial proposal. Although it runs mostly through greenfield land and the designations have been in place for decades, it will funnel a large volume of traffic into the existing roading network through Cranford Street and St Albans Residents Association has been highly active in campaigning against it and this is ongoing at the time of writing.

A key part of the counter proposals to address the impact of the CNC has been the proposals to develop a rail passenger service between the City and Rangiora and this has been well addressed by this blog and the campaign will continue. I will share some thoughts about the upcoming elections and the possible impacts in my next post. The NPS discussion will continue in part [2] of this series/

 
 

Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [2]: “An Accessible City” – summary

One of the great things that came out of the post-earthquake reconstruction in Christchurch in the early to mid 2010s was the “An Accessible City” concept which was based on the submissions of a large number of people from all over the city. It was adopted by Otakaro Ltd (one of the lead Crown earthquake recovery agencies in Canterbury) as the replacement transport chapter of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan in October 2013 and was signed off by Ecan, CERA, CCDU, CCC, Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu and NZTA. This post is essentially about the plan and most of the content is extracts from it. The plan opens with the diagram shown below which creates the concept of a “central city road use hiearchy”.

Screenshot_2019-08-20_20-48-03

Clearly this is a sound concept: ensuring that some roads will be prioritised for public transport and some for cycling helps to make those modes more viable in the central city and therefore promote these environmentally friendly alternatives to reduce traffic congestion in the Four Avenues.

The next thing we read in the plan is “Part 1: Accessibility” and this sets out the key concepts, summarised as “The buildings, open spaces, streets and facilities within the central city will be safe, accessible and people friendly”. This is further expanded into statements about the function of the transport system, namely that it will focus on certain routes that prioritise public transport and cycling over cars, as well as minimise mode conflicts and provide enjoyable journeys for different types of users. This also includes the implementation of speed limits within the CC.

The plan then expands into a section referring to each mode and here we will summarise the detail. The Walking section refers to the changes made in the Core to make some streets pedestrian-only and others restricting traffic flows so that these areas would be safer for pedestrian use. Vehicle speeds within the Inner Zone would be no more than 30 km/h to ensure pedestrian safety. The Walking section seems to have been the one that was most readily implemented and with the fewest compromises to date, partly due to the adoption of the existing pedestrian malls into the plan.

Screenshot_2019-08-20_21-02-18

The blue shaded area must be the “inner zone” referred to above. The large green rectangular area in the middle is The Square and the purple rectangle is the Bus Exchange. The key routes shown above are Colombo St (north-south through The Square), Worcester Street (east-west through The Square), Oxford Terrace (east / south side of the Avon), High Street (diagonally south-east from The Square), Cashel Street (east-west two blocks south of The Square), Lichfield Street (one block south of Cashel Street on the northern side of the Bus Exchange), Tuam Street (south of the Bus Exchange), Rolleston Avenue on the east edge of Hagley Park, Victoria Street (diagonally upper-left), and the new laneways going north-south between Manchester Street and Madras Street on the east side of the inner zone. The main problem has been the halt placed on further AAC development in 2017 which means Victoria Street and High Street alterations may not be completed as envisaged.

Cycling is the next section covered. This map shows the key cycling routes within the CBD.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-29-20

These are similar to the walking routes. Much of the work up to the end of 2017 was completed as planned. Since 2018 with work being put on hold, High Street and Victoria Street in particular are unlikely to be completed as originally envisaged. St Asaph Street’s cycleways were very controversial, but the revamp demanded by some sectors of the business community was scaled back and only minimal changes were made.

The next section is “Main Streets” referring to Victoria Street and Colombo Street South as areas that would be prioritised for walking and cycling as well as having appropriate public transport priority measures where applicable. There would be limited on street parking provided for short term use.

Next is “Bus interchange and public transport”. This map shows the key public transport network in the central city.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-44-11

Victoria Street bus priority has been put on hold at the time of writing this due to significant opposition from businesses in the area and this will remain a major bottleneck for peak time public transport operations as there are hundreds of bus journeys through the street to reach northern destinations.

Car travel is next. In the inner core the expectation is that traffic speed would be limited to 30 km/h. Salisbury Street and Kilmore Street are listed for conversion from one-way to two-way operation but this has yet to occur and it is uncertain when this work will proceed.

This map shows the expected outline of the road network.

Screenshot_2019-08-21_02-49-14

Tuam Street has been converted to one way as predicted in the plan.

Next section is “Parking and service access”. Here the key problem is there is no requirement for any business to provide for its own off street parking. Consequently we now have the ridiculous situation that landowners are threatening legal action against the Council to force them to provide on street parking outside their businesses. This is the single greatest issue that has forced the abrogation of the Accessible City plan in the last couple of years.

“Way finding” is the next section and refers to the type, level and design of street signage and other visual information for users of the CBD.

“Implementation and monitoring” is the next section and gives timelines for developing the different aspects of the plan.

“Statutory direction…” is the section which directed the adoption of the AAC chapter into the CCRP. The following sections in the document show the changes in the wording of the District Plan transport provisions.

So that sums up the “An Accessible City” plan. This was put out to consultation and work began to implement it. This will be described in the next article of this series.