This became a particularly interesting issue for the Commissioners dealing with the Selwyn District Rural Residential Strategy when two of our clients proposed rural residential development designed in a ‘future proofed’ manner (at Rolleston and Prebbleton). They are designed to accommodate rural residential development in the short to medium term, but recognise that the sites’ proximity to existing urban development suggests long term urban expansion will eventually encompass the sites. Specific design features across the sites provide for rural residential amenity for residents now, while ensuring future urban intensification of the sites is able to occur, without the need to retrofit the sites for development.
Specific Future Proofing Features
- An appropriate roading layout, with covenants to ensure widening or future connections can be made;
- Appropriate building platforms to ensure rural residential dwellings can integrate into a more intensified development pattern;
- Identification of infrastructure locations and legal provisions to ensure these areas are available for future development (ie free of dwellings or other buildings), and in some cases the installation of services to urban requirements. Engineers and surveyors indicated at the Rural Residential Strategy hearing, that it is more cost effective to install larger water or wastewater pipes in the first instance, rather than digging up the road in 10 years to replace inadequate infrastructure networks;
- Legal mechanisms to indicate to purchasers of rural residential blocks that should urban expansion occur into this area, intensification of their land, and surrounding land will occur.
‘Future proofing’ facilitates possible future urban development and avoids the considerable difficulties that can arise when needing to retrofit rural residential development to provide for intensification - as is currently being experienced in parts of Rolleston. With multiple land owners with different development timeframes and aspirations and a strong sense of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) occurring, Council is struggling to get landowners to agree on the form of future development such as where and when new road connections should be located and created. Additionally rate payers will find themselves having to cover the costs of installing upgraded services, and current infrastructure never anticipated as serving urban densities.
Existing landowners often wish to retain their substantial homes and gardens, and just make surplus land available for development. Whilst this organic approach to development has advantages, including a mixed age development and variety of housing types, it is difficult to achieve the required minimum dwelling densities for new greenfield urban areas of between 10-15 households per hectare (approximately 600-700m2 average lot sizes).
The Commissioners agreed with our future proofing approach with both proposed ‘future proofed’ sites included in the adopted Rural Residential Strategy. They considered that this approach is in accordance with the relevant regional planning documents which require that rural residential development areas are not ‘in transition’ to full urban development. For the sites to be in transition some noticeable change would have to be occurring (such as a plan change or resource consent application).
While there is no absolute certainty regarding how urban expansion will occur in the future, we can be sure that, with growing populations, expansion will occur. Now is the most appropriate time to anticipate and provide for growth. ‘Future proofing’ rural residential developments just makes good planning sense.