On 12 June the Auckland Mayoral Housing Taskforce released its report to the Mayor. The taskforce is made up of a significant cross section of people from the development sector, including government organisations, professional institutes, developers, banks, real estate agencies, contractors and house builders.
Full report can be downloaded here:
The report makes recommendations in three key areas:
• developing at scale, which includes building through the dips
• unlocking the availability of land with appropriate zoning and infrastructure
• enabling efficiency and innovation in consenting and risk management.
One of the eleven tactical interventions to enable efficient and innovation in consenting and risk management is directed to Urban Design:
In order to strike an appropriate balance between the benefits of urban design and the costs of achieving them, Council to work with the development community to:
• Agree the importance of good urban design
• Ensure that there is a single point of approval for designs and/ or encourage the establishment of specific project design review panels for significant developments
• Facilitate discussion between developers, planners, and design review panels about the value and cost implications of key amenity provisions.
The underlying theme of “to strike an appropriate balance between the benefits of Urban Design and the costs of achieving them” assumes good Urban Design has a higher cost to achieve which is often not necessarily the case in my professional experience. This is more apparent when weighed against the long term cost of poor urban design outcomes on the residents, communities and utility operators.
Since the Urban Design Protocol was released in 2005, we have seen increased focus on the importance of good urban design and significant improvements in the quality of the urban design across Auckland. From the City Centre Masterplan, Auckland Design Manual through to delivery of Public Domain in the CBD and Hobsonville Point, we are able to experience the benefits of Urban Design first hand. The now-forfeited requirement of design statements in the Auckland Unitary Plan would have taken Urban Design in Auckland to the next level.
The Urban Design review process, either through the Urban Design Panel, pre-application meetings with council or via section 92 requests are different forms of Urban Design feedback a developer will receive. At times, this feedback is seen as subjective; an expert providing comments without understanding the cost implication of the effects. The perception of higher cost to create quality urban design outcome is also reinforced when developers are asked to redesign their proposal.
In my experience, projects are often rushed to get to resource consent application, depriving the design process of much needed time. Often projects are too far progressed and heavily invested in before the Council Urban Design review process. Due to the resolution of the design prior to the review, the Urban Design feedback and recommendations are more likely to be costly, limited in benefits and slowing the approval process.
Alternatively a more collaborative and slower design process may yield a better outcome, by getting Urban Design feedback on a draft design. Proposals should utilise the relevant feedback to the betterment of the project and record the process as part of the planning report to support the resource consent application.