New approach to vacant sites in Christchurch’s CBD

Christchurch City Council has approved the implementation of a proposed new approach to the management of privately owned vacant sites in the Central City.  The “Vacant Sites Programme” is intended to encourage landowners to either develop their land or ensure it is being used positively in the short term before development.

A Council survey of the Central City land use (inside the four avenues) in January 2020 indicated that 19% of the Central City’s total area is vacant land.  While some is intended to be developed, the Council has committed to taking a leadership role in addressing negative perceptions and issues caused by vacant sites.

The Vacant Sites Programme defines a vacant site as land that has been cleared and may be in a temporary use as a stepping stone to permanent development.  The goals of the programme are for the Council to positively engage with Central City landowners and encourage and support them to:

  • Proceed with plans for permanent development as economic feasibility allows; or
  • Achieve a level of site amenity that contributes to the positive experience of the Central City, embracing interim uses and public activation of land in high profile locations, where permanent development is not expected in the short term (two years).

Due to the varying characteristics of vacant sites, the Council has recognised that different techniques, mechanisms and advice will be needed.  The tools in the Council’s “living toolkit” range from voluntary, assisted, directed and enforced, including:

  • Advice, guidance and standards, including potential changes to the District Plan and parking policies and new guidelines to inform owners about expectations/options for site improvement;
  • Community capacity building, including engaging with stakeholders, owners and local interest groups to establish local priorities, site solutions and community-led action;
  • Development enabling, including advice and support services for developers and landowners through, for example, pre-application advice, design clinics and partnership approval facilitation through the development process;
  • Financial tools, including incentives to encourage action, for example, the existing development contributions rebate, rates rebate incentives and potential rating policy changes;
  • Amenity and activation projects to improve amenity and activate sites; and
  • Regulatory compliance and enforcement to address issues such as dust, graffiti, litter or other Health Act 1956 nuisances, or cessation of unconsented activities.

It remains to be seen how far the Council will employ these techniques and what impact they may have.  If you have any questions on the Vacant Sites Programme or would like any advice in relation to your site or development plans, please contact Lane Neave’s Resource Management team.

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