Experts this week raised concerns about Christchurch City Council’s plan to restrict the height of future buildings in the earthquake-hit city to a maximum 29m.
Urban sprawl is a risk, say experts
Restricting building heights is an overreaction that could result in a more sprawling city, a poorer and over-stretched transport system and cost businesses, they said.
“Many tall buildings, which have helped define the city’s skyline in the past, are damaged and likely to be demolished [following February’s earthquake],” says the draft city plan, published last week.
“While a few tall buildings will remain, and will need to be integrated into the redeveloped city, the majority of the remaining buildings in the Central City will be lower rise.”
The plan includes restricting buildings in the city centre to a maximum of seven storeys, widening banks along the Avon River and building a light rail system to connect the University of Canterbury with the city centre.
University of Nottingham professor of engineering geology Paul Nathanail said the height limit could lead to further sprawl and cause traffic problems if public transport was not integrated properly.
“I think the logic of the low-rise development makes sense only where it won’t give rise to urban sprawl,” he said.
Imperial College London lecturer in modelling engineering risk Peter Stafford said the city council may have taken the easy option. “We know we can design tall buildings safely, so I don’t see why they need a low-rise plan,” he said, adding that it was an overreaction and that the low-rise building plan will make traffic worse and affect business within the city.
Aecom head of building structures Peter Ayres said that high-rise development has economic and cultural benefits and that locals witnessing some of the cities taller structures collapse following the quake was one of the biggest influencers on the move towards low-rise buildings.