Alternative Height In Relation To Boundary Appeal Resolved

An important decision was reached at the Environment Court regarding the Alternative Height In Relation To Boundary appeal. This appeal was between Ryman (and others) vs Akl Council when the Unitary Plan became operative in 2016. Thankfully, the appeal has been decided in its favour.

What Is The Alternative Height In Relation To Boundary?
In essence, it allows schemes to use a different (more aggressive) height in relation plane to the default that applies for a given zone creating a larger possible building envelope. 

To illustrate, in the Mixed Housing Urban Zone, the standard is 3m + 45 degrees. And so under certain conditions (i.e. proposed buildings within 20m of site frontage), a proposal can utilise the Alternative HIRB standard of a maximum 'height of 3.6m measured vertically above ground level at side and rear boundaries. Thereafter, buildings must be set back 1m and then 0.3m for every additional metre in height (73.3 degrees) up to 6.9m and then 1m for every additional metre in height (45 degrees)'.

Furthermore, Council's discretion is restricted to the following matters when assessing an application: Sunlight access, Attractiveness and safety of the street and; Overlooking and Privacy. But to be clear, it remains a restricted discretionary standard and is not permitted as of right.

Why Is This Decision Important?
It provides a lot more flexibility for developments to utilise a larger building envelope and therefore potentially increase a scheme's yield. 

How Does This Impact A Development You Might Be Designing?
Previously where schemes have only been able to apply the standard HIRB rule, they have not been able to fully utilise the benefits of the Alternative standard (being under appeal). Now with the ruling given, we should start seeing better application of the Unitary Plan for greater density which was supported by the Independent Hearings Panels recommendations (and in this case unsupported by Council). Some schemes simply didn't work to great effect when the Alternative standard wasn't able to be utilised.

We've got an instance of a client who’s scheme had to be reduced (losing half a floor essentially) in order for it to comply and be considered. With the new Alternative standard in place, this can now be reconsidered for reinstating, adding a higher degree of value to one entire unit within the development. This could improve the value of that unit considerably simply because we’ll achieve a more usable floor instead of a half successful one. This will probably be in the order of 100s of thousands of dollars to the end value of that unit. And we have other schemes being worked on right now which will benefit greatly from this.

When Can It Be Applied?
We can expect for it to be applied as soon as mid-Feb we think. And though whilst this is the case, it is still a very recent introduction and therefore is likely to be subject to interpretation when Council assesses applications that applies this standard.

If you’d like a copy of the ruling, let me know and I'll send it to you.

Graeme Fan