Design experts battle over Lakeview's tall towers as decision looms
Whether or not Lakeview’s tall towers will sit naturally at the base of Queenstown’s Ben Lomond continues to be contested by design experts as a final decision on whether a consenting panel will approve them to be built looms.
The fast-track consent process for the controversial billion-dollar development has resumed, from yesterday (Wednesday, September 28), at the request of the applicant.
Decision makers have now pushed out the deadline for their final decision on the proposal by 25 working days, meaning a verdict will be delivered on November 25, subject to no further requests for a suspension by the applicant.
In August, the company behind the development had asked to press pause on its application for the first five buildings of the precinct in response to advice provided to the panel by University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning head Dr Lee Beattie.
In his report Dr Beattie says the buildings proposed in the resource consent application do not sit comfortably in the Queenstown landscape and are more suited to metropolitan Auckland.
Now, the developer has come out swinging, challenging the advice of Dr Beattie and telling the panel “urban design is an art not a science”.
Locals are “almost universal” with their support for the project, it claims in correspondence to the decision-making panel.
The building designs criticised by Dr Beattie are the result of “over four years of work” by a vast team of international architectural companies and developers in consultation with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, it says.
“Support for the proposal has been almost universal throughout the pre-application process, public consultation phase and engagement with QLDC.
“The lack of unsupportive comments from the substantial number of adjacent properties which the Panel invited comments from is also remarkable in the context of the application.
“Dr Beattie’s urban design concerns in respect to the policies and objectives of the District Plan are not reflected in the voices of other parties.”
However, Crux has previously reported many in the town, including councillors, had been blindsided by the developer's decision to significantly increase the height of its tower blocks in this first stage of the precinct's development.
There's also been concerns raised about a community objective for the new precinct to provide affordable housing options for longer-term workers in the town, and whether that objective is still being prioritised by the developer.
But the developer continues to defend both its tall towers to the consenting panel, saying they're unavoidable due to “a large-scale drain running around the rear periphery of the development” that's provided a “significant” design constraint.
“This drain completely compromised design options and required the increased height of the buildings to enable a feasible project to be realised.”
It's also convinced it's meeting the community's objectives outlined in Plan Change 50, saying the QLDC, along with its "supporting consultant team", have assessed the "global project" against the policies and objectives of the plan change.
The developer is asking the panel in coming to its decision to consider the entire precinct, the first stage of which is all the current resource consent covers and which represents an “incomplete picture”.
However the panel has responded saying its “formed a tentative view” that it’s unable to do that, and must consider the current resource consent as a stand-alone project and not within the context of a finished precinct.
The panel also says it’s received a further response from Dr Beattie, and his advice continues to contest that of the applicant’s.
“There remain significant differences in opinion between the applicant’s experts and Dr Beattie,” the panel says.
The applicant had earlier indicated they were “willing to workshop the issues further and engage, if necessary, with Dr Beattie”.
They continue to push for greenlight for their proposal, saying “Securing consent for this development unlocks the expedited creation of employment and economic recovery from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that the precinct will deliver and thus the applicant is focussed on ensuring this outcome.”