Development boom prompts opposition around Cromwell

by Kim Bowden - Jun 30, 2021

A new residential subdivision planned for the outskirts of Bannockburn is being opposed by a horde of local residents.

More than 100 people filled the Bannockburn Bowling Club on Sunday to voice their opposition to a resource consent application requesting go-ahead for 38 new residential lots on Terrace Road.

The application, made by the D J Jones and N R Searell family trusts, proposes the development of residential lots varying in size from 700 to 2,941 square meters.

Both the minimum lot size and average lot size proposed by the applicant are smaller than those stipulated for the area in the Central Otago District Plan.

The applicant is also asking for greenlight to develop land that has a Building Line Restriction.

Design plans for a proposed subdivision on Terrace Road in Bannockburn.

For Cairnmuir Road resident James Dicey, the proposed subdivision threatens the special rural character of Bannockburn.

He says the number of locals in opposition to the application at the last-minute public meeting was “staggering”, and none of them want to see smaller section sizes the norm.

“Nobody wants that. They were all passionate about maintaining the open, semi-rural aspect that living in Bannockburn brings.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the wider Cromwell community.

The town’s Spatial Plan, part of the “Eye to the Future” Masterplan that involved significant public consultation, gives a thumbs-up to densification in urban Cromwell, while out of town in the satellite communities of Tarras, Lowburn and Bannockburn, there’s a desire to retain current section sizes and character.

For Mr Dicey, and the 100-or-so other residents at Sunday’s meeting, the proposal seems “out of whack” with Council’s planning documents.

Cairnmuir Road resident James Dicey worries the impacts on users of the Bannockburn Inlet and new Cromwell-Clyde cycle trail have not been taken iinto account by applicants seeking a resource consent for a proposed subdivision on Terrace Road. He's one of a group of Bannockburn locals set to oppose the development.

The planned development will be visible in part from the Bannockburn Inlet, Cairnmuir and Cornish Point Roads and, even, the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, and the effects of this have not been adequately addressed by the applicant, Mr Dicey says.

“Cycle trail users and users of the Bannockburn Inlet have been ridden roughshod over and not considered at all.

“The effects are way, way more than minor.”

Residents at the meeting plan to make a group submission opposing the application.

“Everyone’s taking chances and trying to do what they can to maximise their returns in these weird Covid times but the council still has a responsibility to protect its district plan,” says Mr Dicey.

Central Otago District Council planning manager David Campbell says whether or not the application is successful will be determined by a commissioner.

To date, council staff have simply followed processes determined by the Resource Management Act (RMA) in regards to the proposed subdivision, he says.

“At this stage we have considered that it meets the RMA thresholds for notification and is still open for submissions.

“No substantive decision has been made on the application in terms of the effects or objectives and policies of the District Plan.”

Bannockburn residents are not the only people in town anxious about subdivision proposals.

Wooing Tree subdivision application fast-tracked

The latest necessary consent for Wooing Tree Estate’s development in central Cromwell has been fast-tracked, circumventing usual local council processes including a general public submission process.

Development of the residential and commercial area on the site of the iconic Wooing Tree Vineyard has begun, and it’s set to significantly change the entrance to Cromwell.

Wooing Tree Estate has had a resource consent for its residential and commercial subdivision in Cromwel''s centre fast-tracked, meaning it bypasses normal public consultation processes.

In May, the developer lodged a fresh consent application for the development with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act.

An external panel has identified a select number of affected parties, mainly direct neighbours - today, Wednesday, June 30, is their final chance to comment on the latest plans.

No other public comment is allowed for.

In response, Central Otago District Mayor has publicly said he can understand why people in Cromwell are concerned and confused by this acceleration of standard RMA processes.

Council will be providing “written comments” to the panel that will reference the community’s wishes extracted during the Cromwell Masterplan consultation, the mayor says.

“But even the ‘written comments’ name itself suggests to me limited weight being placed on them; but maybe that is just the old lawyer coming out in me.”

The consent application currently in front of the EPA decision-makers proposes denser housing than in Wooing Tree’s initial concepts and a relocation of a commercial area similar in size to the Cromwell Mall to across the State Highway from the Big Fruit.

Speaking to Crux on behalf of Wooing Tree Estate, senior development manager Sean Haynes says the latest masterplan for the subdivision includes a greater range of section and housing options.

It will better align with the Council’s Spatial Plan for Cromwell, which was adopted after Wooing Tree’s first subdivision blueprints were created, and today’s housing market, he says.

And, today's market - it's red hot: Titles for stage one at Wooing Tree have now been issued, with all sections presold off the plan well in advance. Stage two sections are on offer and they're selling well too.

As for what potential businesses may nab the proposed highway-side commercial land, Mr Haynes says Wooing Tree will still seek to accommodate “boutique” tourism and retail operations that complement a new cellar door for the Wooing Tree Vineyard.

“Nothing has changed in terms of the nature or scale of retail use proposed in our current proposal when compared to the original plan change. We have merely shifted the location closer to the main highway.”

What has changed, and changed rapidly, is the national housing climate in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Cromwell Tall Poppy real estate agent Keeley Anderson says sections in and around town are rare and sought after.

Larger sections, and more of them, wanted

Keeley Anderson, of Tall Poppy Real Estate in Cromwell, says demand from buyers for sections is insatiable.

“I’m asked all the time if we know of any sections coming up for sale.”

And, when on the market, they’re not there for long, she says.

“The last two-hectare lifestyle block I sold was under offer in one day.”

Many families want to move to Cromwell, and many already here are keen to move further up the property ladder, she says.

“But the biggest problem they face is the lack of good housing on decent-sized sections.”

Lifestyle factors are a big part of what draws people to town, and then keeps them there, yet the sections available at present often don’t meet those aspirations.

“Not being able to park a boat, caravan or trailer out the front of a home can be a deal-breaker for buyers.

“Larger sections aren't frequently released, and spec builders are snapping up the subdivisions before the public can buy them.

“Local homeowners who want to build their dream homes are now not selling up as they can't find a section to buy, which put additional pressure on local housing stock - it’s better for them to stay put.”

  • View the Terrace Road subdivision application here.
  • Follow progress of Wooing Tree Estate's fast-tracked application here.
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