Auckland City Council came down heavily on signs again today, declining Westfield NZ Ltd’s application for yet another banner on the Westfield Downtown shopping centre (click the photo to enlarge it and you’ll see there is a possible space) and declining retrospective consent for one in the middle of a signage scrum on Pitt St.
But planning consultant Brooke Dales told the council’s planning fixtures committee today signage on the building already totalled 741mÂ² (much of it in the Qantas billboard spanning most of the Customs & Lower Albert St walls), and that would cover 82% of the largest (900mÂ²) wall of the building, which sits on a large proportion of the block through to Lower Albert & Quay Sts.
2 of the 3 councillors hearing the application today, Cllr Graeme Mulholland (acting as chairman) & Cllr Bill Christian, were on the panel that grudgingly granted Westfield permission in December 2002 to erect 15 smaller branding signs around the Downtown centre.
They called it clutter then, and again today, but in 2005 the council has become stricter in the application of its rules. It’s introduced a registration process under which it’s ordering the removal of billboards found not to comply with the bylaws, in line with a far more proactive stance on heritage & historic buildings.
Cllr Mulholland accepted that the 3-storey Downtown box wasn’t the prettiest of buildings, but asked Westfield’s planning consultant, Rupert Hodson (a senior planner at Beca Hollings Carter & Ferner Ltd), if he then thought it appropriate “to cover it with garish signage”.
Cllr Christine Caughey said 2 heritage buildings â€“ the former Central Port Office & the Old Customhouse â€“ were opposite the Downtown shopping centre on Queen & Customs Sts, and plan change 2 had introduced urban design controls to the area: “This council is taking urban design seriously. We’re working to a city which has much more quality to its urban design character.”
Cllr Caughey asked a question of Mr Hodson which, essentially, tests the powers of observation of the whole planning industry: “Have you got urban design qualifications, or have you consulted urban design people?” Mr Hodson conceded he didn’t have these qualifications, but did consult relevant people at Beca.
3 years ago it was the councillors who were being besieged by the billboard industry pushing its limits. Today, though, Cllr Mulholland returned to the attack: “If you thought the building was so bland, was there ever any thought that you might put some art works on it? A lot of your argument is how ugly the building is and how pretty it will be when they put advertising on it. A lot of the buildings around it are heritage. We want them to stand out, rather then buildings with signs.”
Westfield development executive Peter Tuck tried telling the councillors the signage wouldn’t be there forever, but “will see us through” until the site is redeveloped. That could be a long way off. The last attempt to sell it for development drew a blank.
Cllr Mulholland fired the final shots, still concerned that Westfield proposed increasing its coverage to an amount equalling 87% of the building’s largest way: “It is exceptionally high, when the city is spending $30 million on the cbd to upgrade the area.”
The anti-billboard upgrade has some way to go, though. The council still has a billboard attached to its Downtown parking building â€“ currently advertising men’s underwear â€“ and one of the buildings Cllr Caughey cited, the Old Customhouse, not only carries a billboard on its eastern wall, but it gets double exposure from the reflection in the windows of the neighbouring Tower Centre.
Today: Art Barn sign has to go
26 July 2005: Councillors reject billboard in Strand parapet space
10 December 2002: Auckland City consent activity, 10 December 2002