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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The New City - the Central City Plan

CCC have responsibility for redeveloping the central city. The blueprint for this will be the Central City Plan which the council must finalise and pass to CERA by December this year. As mentioned in the previous post (here) there is a timeline from now until December through the course of which the council will seek community input as the Plan is developed to draft stage, then formal hearings will be held, after which the Plan will be finalised and handed to CERA.

On its Share an Idea website the council explains the Plan like this:
The Central City Plan is a vision which will outline how people, business and retail can use this area of Christchurch; how we will develop the public spaces; how we might move about the Central City; what activities we will promote in this area; what public facilities will be found in the Central City; how we support businesses to return to the Central City and what types of buildings are rebuilt.
Some work has been done, and decisions made, by the council prior to consultation:
We are not beginning with a blank canvas as considerable work has already been done on how to revitalise the Central City. The Central City Plan will build on this work. Some decisions may also be made about the Building Code and future use of land in the Central City by the Earthquake Commission and Government which will need to be reflected in the Central City Plan.
The council has established an outline and constraints for the planning process, and all discussion and contributions will need to comply with this to be considered relevant. Even if you don't want to be involved in the planning process, you can see already how the plan will take shape, and how the basic physical layout of the city is going to look.
The areas for which the council will be planning are:
  • Move – how people get to and around the central city
  • Market – how to encourage economic activity in the city centre
  • Space – what our city looks like and how space is used
  • Life – how to create a vibrant centre that’s a great place to live, work and play
There is no indication if these four categories are in order of descending priority.

In describing the process the council also mention that some physical constraints have been placed on what can happen:
What are we working with?
There are a number of aspects to the Central City which will not be changed and will shape the Central City Plan. These non-negotiables are:
  • The Central City will not be relocated.
  • More than 50% of buildings within the red zone are likely to have survived the earthquake and will remain in their current form.
  • The form and function of Hagley Park will remain the same.
  • The meandering Avon River’s course will not be changed.
  • The grid pattern of the Central City streets will remain; however, there may be changes to traffic flows and use of streets.
Other constraints exist alongside those mentioned above. The insurance policies held by the council provide for replacing like with like, so physical changes (e.g. major redesign to the appearance of streets) may be ruled out on those grounds. Similarly, many property owners will be limited by the value and terms of their policies to what they can do.

Areas of likely change not mentioned above include the rating system which forces developers into high rise buildings to make maximum use of the amount of space they can build on, and the "perceptual" dimension of the building code. In the latter case, despite the best regulations and design in the world, some residents may refuse to work or shop in high rise, brick or stone buildings they perceive to be potentially unsafe. A city of untennantable buildings must be avoided. 

In a similar vein the council will need to modify regulations to ensure the greatest range of development applications, and variations to approvals, are publicly notified and rigorously examined. Council practices must ensure that a "business friendly" approach is not at the cost of the other values of the city, or the personal well being of residents. 

This must also be an opportunity for the residents and communities of greater Christchurch to examine, consider and refine the corporate values and practices of the council (elected and unelected) to ensure it too is suitable for the new city.
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