Planning despair as privacy goes out the window

Madeleine Long failing to admire the view from her bedroom.

Auckland Council’s planning and resource consent procedures have been labelled “a farce and an outrage” by a Warkworth couple after a neighbouring new-build that overlooks and overshadows their cottage was consented without them having to be notified at any stage.

Ms Long and Sean Long, of Pulham Road, are unhappy that despite the 329sqm new house breaching planning standards and a planner’s report mixing up the eastern and western boundaries when considering its effects on neighbouring properties, Council still decided it was “comfortable” with it being a non-notifiable consent – that is, it could go ahead without the Longs needing to be consulted.

“It’s crazy. How can Council decide that something so close doesn’t affect us?” Ms Long said. “This has really invaded our privacy. The windows are looking straight into our bedroom.”

She pointed out that when she and her husband made an application to subdivide their own block, they had to inform their neighbours, yet no one had to notify them about the new-build when resource consent was required.

“We have had to have neighbours sign off for our subdivision, so why didn’t we have to sign off on this?” she said. “It’s not the fact they’re building there, it’s the Council letting this happen. We’re not seeking compensation or money, it’s just the fact that it’s so huge and so close.”

The Longs were doubly frustrated when Council officers maintained that their bedroom wasn’t a bedroom at all. Ms Long said this referred to a plan drawing dating back 16 years which showed their bedroom marked as a dining room, but it had been in use as a third bedroom for well over 10 years and by several sets of owners. She said if Council had bothered to notify them, they could have pointed out that their records were outdated.

Resource consent was required for the new house for exceeding a number of building standards relating to size and height.

“They breached the Unitary Plan and that’s why they needed consent, and that’s the point,” Ms Long said. “We should have been informed, but Council just said it’s minor, don’t worry about it. The Unitary Plan is supposed to be there to protect people like us and it’s just not, it’s failed.”

When asked why the resource consent process didn’t allow for all near neighbours to be notified more often and what protection the Unitary Plan offered residents from intrusive development, Council’s resource consents manager for the north west, Ian Dobson, reiterated that the effects on neighbours were considered to be “less than minor” in the Longs’ case.

“When a resource consent application is lodged, the processing planner makes a thorough assessment of the proposal in relation the immediately adjoining properties, while having regard to the relevant provisions of the Unitary Plan to determine if an application needs to be notified,” he said.

“The site is a single house zone, which provides for dwellings of one to two storeys on sites about 600sqm in area. While the proposed dwelling required resource consent for exceeding standards in relation to maximum building coverage, front yard setback and height in relation to boundary, overall, given the extent of the infringements, the effects on adjoining properties were considered to be less than minor.

“We are sorry to hear the neighbours are unhappy about Council’s decision, however a thorough assessment has been undertaken and the level of development proposed was commensurate with the outcomes envisaged for sites within the single house zone.”


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