Using Structure Plans

A structure plan is a plan that guides the development or redevelopment of a particular area of land by defining the basic geographical and management frameworks around which future land uses, provision of infrastructure, open space networks, transportation linkages, and other features for managing the effects of development or redevelopment will be based. Structure plans are particularly useful for managing the development of large areas of land and areas of land in multiple ownership, so as to avoid uncoordinated patterns of development and provision of services.

Structure plans comprise one or more maps, plans or diagrammatic representations of the proposed layout, features and linkages for areas being developed or redeveloped. The maps, plans or representations are usually supported by text explaining the background to the issues which gave rise to the structure plan and the proposed management approach to deal with those issues. The management approach may be implemented through any combination of subdivision controls, land use controls, or agreements.

Structure plans, if sufficiently detailed and incorporated into the district plan, may allow for a lower category of consent for subdivision, for instance restricted discretionary rather than discretionary, than otherwise may have been the case. This is because they logically accompany rezoning proposals where major issues of concern can be addressed through public submissions and hearings on plan reviews, variations or changes.

Structure plans may also provide for different densities and subdivision standards to be adopted, as structure planning provides the council with the ability to develop an area in a comprehensive and integrated manner. This is particularly relevant in the case of greenfield sites and planning for mixed use developments (commercial, industrial, residential, open space) and the provision of services.

Structure plans can ensure that areas with a highly fragmented title structure are developed in a coordinated manner over a short time-span, such as the full urbanisation of areas that were once lifestyle blocks. However, structure plans may be less appropriate when contemplating larger areas over a longer term as the structure plan may become superseded by changing circumstances requiring ongoing resource consent procedures. Similarly caution needs to be exercised where future development is speculative and may or may not happen. A more appropriate technique may be deferred or staged zoning for such areas, with intentions broadly expressed.

  • Where a structure plan has been developed, the district plan should include or at least refer to a structure plan as a method of controlling subdivision. This is particularly important in the case of greenfields development, but may also be appropriate in brownfields areas, and redevelopment areas;
  • A structure plan should be developed in close consultation with affected parties, including land owners and local communities, iwi, interest groups, infrastructure providers, other councils and relevant government departments;
  • The structure plan needs to refer to other council plans such as the Long Term Plan, Annual Plan, asset management plans, regional policy statements and plans, as well as linkages with iwi etc.