The Prestons development in the north-east of Christchurch is a project I believe highlights the need to synchronise land use planning in Christchurch with transport planning. Prestons is a proposed new large residential and commercial development in the north-east of Christchurch. The development is a partnership between Ngai Tahu Holdings, Foodstuffs and CDL Land New Zealand and will cover an area of approximately 200 hectares to the north and south of Prestons Rd, and will eventually be home to more than 6000 people. Like Pegasus, Prestons will have mixed density residential neighbourhoods and commercial space in a ‘central village’ area.
The developers of Prestons claim there is a demand for homes in northern Christchurch and they are simply reacting to that demand. However, surely such developments should be located strategically within that area to make the provision of services efficient and affordable (e.g. transport)? Ultimately, long-term, it is the entire city that bares the cost of these developments, so we really should be looking toward ensuring that our developments are ‘smart developments’.
Last year the Prestons proposal was rejected by the Christchurch City Council. They saw the scheme as being outside the areas identified by the council for housing development in the southwest and the Belfast corridor to the north and criticised a lack of information on such subjects as the impact of the development on local roads. In other words, it isn’t located along a planned strategic growth corridor making it harder and more expensive to plan for good transport and other services. When more information was provided about the impact of the proposal on local roads, the Council allowed the bid to re zone the 200 hectares of land to be publicly notified. Submissions were made and an 11 day hearing is currently underway.
Traffic engineer Andrew Carr told the commissioners that nearby roads would be able to handle additional traffic, with help from road improvements included in the plan change or already scheduled by the council or the New Zealand Transport Agency.
One of the central claims with the Prestons development is that planned road improvements will ensure roads will be able to handle the additional traffic. This is whereabouts my concerns come in, as I think it is imperative not just to take into account road improvements in this case, but also the likely future use of those roads by the time Prestons is up and running. The road improvement most likely anticipated by the developers of Prestons will be the extension of the Northern Motorway and the upgrade of QEII Drive. However, what must also be taken into account here is the growth of the Belfast corridor and the continued high growth of the Waimakariri area to the north. By the time Prestons is in full swing and the Northern Motorway is finished, will congestion be any better? I’m willing to bet it will actually be worse. Elsewhere, I can’t see other key roads in the vicinity getting any better congestion-wise between now and when Prestons comes to fruition.
Prestons could well put pressure on other roads, such as Marshlands, requiring more expense for future upgrades. Compounding the problem is that it would be difficult for public transport to play a major role in transporting Prestons population. Bus lanes and associated intensive bus services are being focused down Main North Rd, and it is along that corridor that a future rail service could well run. Sure, a bus route is planned but I don’t see our current basic bus routes accounting for a big share of trips per capita anywhere in the city. It makes sense to focus future development alongside this corridor, where the main roads and public transport infrastructure is and where money can be concentrated to improve services. The Christchurch City Council is currently doing that, in accordance with the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy. So you can see how Prestons kind of sticks out a bit as a new development.
I think the Prestons development is going to turn out to be quite a test case in regards to how much developers have to adhere to new development guidelines and principles. In my view we need to be tough and earmark our key transport corridors and plan our land use in relation to them, and the Prestons development sure does not tick this box. However, I have a feeling Prestons will inevitably go ahead, but what I do hope will be achieved is that the costs associated with going against the vision of the Council and the UDS will serve to only encourage developers to work within that vision in the future. Heres hoping.