Last week the Christchurch City Council announced the approval for master plans to be developed for New Brighton and Edgeware. These plans, like those already underway for Lyttelton, “Linwood Village”, Selwyn Street, and Sydenham, will provide a kind of guide or framework which will help shape the rebuild and redevelopment of each centre. Special ‘case managers’ have been assigned to help guide redevelopment in other centres.
The Suburban Centres Programme is interesting. On one hand, some claim that it is potentially ineffective as it is a guide only rather than a concrete plan. On the other hand, what more would you expect? You can’t dictate exactly what is or isn’t to be developed on sites, and a basic framework which developers can work within is probably going to lead to a more desired outcome for the community, so I don’t see how the concept is a bad one.
Issues such as the form and function of streets, access, pedestrian spaces and so on will be critical to not only the shape of each community but also the city as a whole. It is also important, at least it seems so to me, that much of what is contained within each suburban master plan is consistent with the values of the draft City Plan. It would be concerning if the goals of improving, and increasing use of, public and active transport, for example, were undermined in the suburban centres.
While it is important that each individual community has the opportunity to shape itself, I think it is also important for consistent policy in key areas, such as transport, right across the city. It would be a shame if there was an emphasis on lots of car parking at the expense of attractive, wide, and safe pedestrian areas, or on easier car access over bus priority or cycle lanes, for example. So far as I can tell at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be too much danger in this happening.
The role of the suburban master plans and case managers in helping to shape the public transport network will be quite crucial I imagine. This is an opportunity to reassess public transport access and facilities in some of the key suburban centres. Both Lyttelton and New Brighton are at the end of proposed rapid transit routes, with both also earmarked for suburban interchanges (well, a ferry terminal in Lyttelton’s case, although I imagine it would be equipped to provide for easy transfer between bus/rail and ferry). Ferry Rd is an important transport corridor, with the entire corridor the subject of another master plan currently underway. The provision of bus priority measures and on-street parking should be a key feature of that plan.
It is important for some consistency if the aims of the draft City Plan are to be realised, so the outcome of the Suburban Centres Programme should be watched carefully. So far, so good as far as I can tell, although there are some opportunities for spanners to be thrown into the works – changes from central government to the draft City Plan being one; differing attitudes toward key issues like transport in different areas being another. It will be difficult, but crucial, to ensure we don’t end up with solutions in each area that differ wildly – for example, bus priority in one area, while another area does not allow for it at all. A very difficult task, and one not made any easier by the amount of (unelected) cooks in the kitchen.
For more information on the Suburban Centres Programme, check out here.