Woolworths NZ wins Environment Court consent for $300m Christchurch scheme

The case took four years to win and cost an estimated $3 million.

Now, the Environment Court has allowed $300m plans proposed by Woolworths NZ for housing, shops, a new supermarket, cinemas, sports and community facilities at Hornby, Christchurch.

In 2018, Woolworths sought consent for the mixed-use development but it was not until this month that it won that application to have resource consent granted for the scheme at 201 Halswell Rd/State Highway 75.

Plans were opposed by adjoining neighbour and property developer Spreydon Lodge, which the court found was trade competition interference, as well as Christchurch City Council whose arguments were also rejected.

One party close to the case said it cost $3m to fight, took those four years and was a clear display of everything wrong with the Resource Management Act where opponents used it to try to stop competition and where council officials and experts did not act independently.

The site is currently farmland.

Woolworths applied to create 10 large lots for more than 250 homes, 5623sq m of retailing including a 3490sq m supermarket, 1300sq m of carparking, community activities, a childcare centre, swimming pool, cinemas, gym and two-level apartment building with 32 units.

Eleven submissions were made of which six opposed it. Hearings were held in February and June.

The supermarket business compromised somewhat on its initial plans by refining its proposal and shifting its supermarket 17m and moving the location of the gym.

Spreydon Lodge holds existing resource consents for its planned Halswell Commons housing and community hub to the north of the Woolworths’ site. Stage one of that won consent in December 2019 but are not yet implemented.

Spreydon opposed Woolworths’ plans claiming lack of integration and connection between the proposed buildings, negative transport effects, commercial activities expanding into a residential neighbourhood zone and retail activities, including speciality food, beverage and entertainment, adjacent to the busy Halswell Rd.

“Although somewhat supportive of the proposal, without amendments to certain elements of the proposal, the council’s position was that the contents sought by Woolworths should be declined,” the September 7 decision said.

The site is 5.5km from the city. The court noted Woolworth’s proposal was non-complying on a number of grounds including night-time noise limits in a residential zone. It cited delivery and service vehicles going to and from the property.

“Woolworths contends that Spreydon Lodge, as owner and developer of the adjoining land is a trade competitor, as the retailing activities that it holds consent for are similar to those that Woolworth proposes for its land; each are intending to provide a cluster of fine-grained retail, food and beverage outlets, while Spreydon Lodge also holds consents for a number of as-yet untenanted large format retail stores that could potentially accommodate a supermarket,” the decision said.

Many actual or potential adverse effects were agreed to be no more than minor between Woolworths and the council.

Positive effects would include increasing Christchurch’s housing supply, new community activities like a medical facility, childcare and public open space and the introduction of commercial activities to meet the nearby neighbourhood’s social and economic wellbeing.

Potential adverse effects on the neighbouring Halswell Timber, associated with reverse sensitivity and stormwater discharges, were also agreed to be appropriately managed through the conditions proposed by Woolworths.

Vehicles will enter the site via a new signalised intersection on Halswell Rd where it meets Aidanfield Dr.

Spreydon Lodge and Woolworths were in business, on sites adjoining each other, of being commercial owners, developers and lessors, potentially competing for lessees, the court decided. Therefore Spreydon was ruled to be a trade competitor.

The court decided effects on the neighbourhood and traffic could be adequately dealt with.

It allowed consent, with conditions.

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