District Plan Review - Commercial Land

On 27 August, Christchurch City Council notified Stage One of its District Plan Review. Known as the “Proposed Replacement Christchurch District Plan”, this is a significant rewrite of the existing plans and introduces new rules that will control activities throughout Christchurch for the foreseeable future.

This creates both risks and opportunities for anyone living or working in Christchurch. Recent and proposed amendments to the RMA mean that it is critical to get involved in plan reviews, as it is increasingly difficult to depart from a plan once the rules are set.

Submissions are open on the Proposed Plan until 8 October 2014. Over the next few weeks, we will be providing a series of articles covering some of the key changes in the Proposed Plan. In this article, we consider the implications for activities on commercially zoned land throughout Christchurch.

What is commercial land?

For the purpose of this article, commercial land is any land that has a proposed “commercial” zoning under the Proposed Plan. This replaces several of the Business” zonings that exist in the current Christchurch City Plan. The easiest way to check if your land has a proposed commercial zoning is to use the “Property Search” on the Council’s website at http://www.proposeddistrictplan.ccc.govt.nz/

It is important to note that the commercial land provisions do not apply to land within the Central City (within the four avenues) or New Brighton. The Proposed Plan is primarily focused on existing commercial areas elsewhere within Christchurch that are used for retail, offices and commercial services, along with a new commercial area at North Halswell. 

What is changing?

Under the current City Plan, commercial activities are spread across a range of different business zones throughout Christchurch. The Proposed Plan restructures this approach to establish a hierarchy of centres that reflects their different functions:

  • District Centres – key activity centres that serve large parts of Christchurch (e.g. Riccarton)
  • Neighbourhood Centres – smaller centres that serve four or five suburbs, (e.g. Sydenham)
  • Local Centres – local parades of shops serving the immediately surrounding residential area.
  • Large Format Centres – centres with large footprint stores, such as Tower Junction.

District and Neighbourhood Centres are divided into a Commercial Core Zone, surrounded by a Commercial Fringe Zone. The intention of this approach is to allow for larger scale development in the Core, with a smaller scale of development on the Fringe where it adjoins residential areas. Local and Large Format Centres have separate zones, with rules to control the scale and form of development that is anticipated within those centres.

The proposed rules for Commercial zones are divided into two key parts; one part managing the activities that can occur, and the other controlling built form.

For the Commercial Core and Fringe Zones, the rules provide for the usual range of activities that you would expect in commercial areas, including retail, offices, commercial services, and entertainment facilities (among others). However, these activities are only permitted where they comply with a number of specific standards. Two such standards are a maximum gross floor area of 500m² for most activities and limitations on the type of activities that can locate on identified “Key Pedestrian Frontages”.

Specific activities that will always require consent in these zones are yard based suppliers, service stations, drive through services, emergency services, and parking buildings/lots.  In addition, sensitive activities (such as residential and education) must not occur under the airport noise contours.

For the Commercial Local Zone, the scale of permitted activities is lower, with a maximum tenancy size at ground level of 250m² for most activities. One notable difference from the Core and Fringe Zones is that food and beverage outlets are not permitted and require consent so that issues such as amenity and nuisance can be considered.   

There are a number of restrictions in the Commercial Retail Park Zone to ensure that they remain dominated by large footprint buildings and do not compete with other centres. This includes limiting offices to those that are ancillary to other permitted activities and requiring that any retail activity has a minimum single tenancy size of 450m².

How will this affect you?

The first point to note is that these provisions do not have immediate effect. Activities will continue to be managed under the existing City Plan rules until a decision is released on the Proposed Plan.

Once the rules take effect, many existing activities will be able to continue in reliance on existing use rights. However, any new or different activities will need to be assessed under the new rules.

For some properties, this may result in less restrictions that what currently exists and enable a wider range of activities to occur. For others, the rules will be more stringent and limit activities that can occur as of right under the current rules. A site specific assessment is required to determine the impact of the changes on a particular property.  

Temporary activities

Another important change in the Proposed Plan that will impact on a number of commercial activities is the inclusion of new rules for temporary activities. These rules apply across all zones and are not limited to commercially zoned land.

Following the earthquakes, a number of commercial activities were forced to relocate to other parts of the city where they would not usually be permitted. This was provided for by a special Order in Council, which allowed these activities to occur on a temporary basis without the usual resource consent requirements until April 2016.

The Proposed Plan introduces new rules that will allow some of these activities to continue until April 2018. However, this is subject to a number of conditions on matters such as car parking and hours of operation. This will benefit many people still relying on temporary activity permits. However care is required to ensure that the activity will be permitted under the various conditions that apply.

Other changes

In addition to the above, there are a number of general rules that apply across all zones, including rules relating to natural hazards and transportation issues. We will address these matters in further updates over the coming weeks.

 To find out more:

  • View the draft plan and related documents at www.proposeddistrictplan.ccc.govt.nz
  • Keep an eye out for further articles about the implications of the Proposed Plan for activities on Residential and Industrial zoned land
  • Contact us if your have any specific queries

Disclaimer: This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice


Posted on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014 at 08:47 am