|9 September 2002|
Public Street Enclosure Policy ready for Council to consider
A new Christchurch City Council policy on outdoor dining areas built on public space is clear, consistent and fair, says a report about to be considered by the Council’s Sustainable Transport and Utilities (STU) Committee.
"What we’re doing is creating a new way for people to occupy street space on clearly defined terms," says Committee chairman Cr Denis O’Rourke. "It creates rights that were not there until now and it clearly states what people have to do if they want to exercise those rights."
If adopted by the full Council later this month, the Public Street Enclosure Policy will guide how the Council will license parts of the public street space for outdoor dining. The policy is of special interest to city restaurant and bar operators.
The policy says outdoor dining in fair weather should be encouraged. It is good for the city and for everyone involved. The policy says it wants to expand the rights of operators to make use of public spaces, but also to clarify them with a policy that will apply across the city and not just in one or two areas. To make sure these public spaces are attractive and do not become cut off from the life of the city there will be guidelines about how much they can be enclosed.
According to the policy, outdoor eating and drinking in the city adds life, interest and colour and is of considerable value socially and recreationally. Licensing public space for private activity also benefits the businesses allowed to use it.
The Council’s role is to find a balance between the environmental and community costs and benefits.
In general the Council provides public space for the use of the general public, the policy says. Licensing means it becomes restricted, semi-private. And when those spaces are open, they provide a place to see and be seen and help to enliven an area. However, screening those areas from view with covers and windbreaks means they contribute less to the area.
The policy begins with the idea that outdoor dining is basically a fair-weather activity, when fresh air and sunshine add to the ambience.
The policy will, at most, allow a partly enclosed area, with overhead canopies made from quality canvas or similar material on metal frames that can be pulled back to a building’s frontage or veranda. It will not allow canopy supports in public footpath areas. Side and front screens will be no more than 1.8m high at the sides, 1.3m high at the front and made from laminated or toughened glass.
"We want these areas to be attractive both to passers by and people who are dining there," Cr O’Rourke says. "We’ve been able to give as much protection as is required in all normal weather conditions when you’d wish to eat outside. That’s why there’s a balance between the degree of enclosure and the need to keep an open and attractive atmosphere for everyone."
The policy will also require approval for furniture material, finishes and colours to make sure they complement the streetscape and it also seeks to make sure continuous access along a street is kept open for pedestrians. This was a particular concern of groups representing blind and partially sighted people.
Cr O’Rourke says the people, groups and businesses which made submissions have had an effect on the final policy.
"We went to several areas in the city and suburbs to make sure the policy would be appropriate across the city," he says. "We’ve been able to accommodate a great deal of what the submitters were asking for and made substantial changes to the original draft, especially in the detail of what is permitted for structures and what is an acceptable standard of street furniture."
In August 2000 a group of Oxford Terrace bar owners came to the Council, asking to be allowed to put up windbreaks outside their businesses. The committee formed to look at the issue was concerned that any change to the licensing arrangement for tables, chairs and umbrellas should be in the form of a minimal structure that could be used only when the weather was bad.
Later, a fully enclosed tent structure was built outside one business on Oxford Terrace without permission from the Council. The business later (Nov, 2001) asked for a licence to occupy legal road and the Council (Dec 2001) decided to put that application to one side until a firm policy and guidelines were developed, under the direction of the Central City Streets Subcommittee.
Council staff and Councillors developed a draft policy which went out for public consultation in April this year. Twenty written submissions were made on the draft and these were discussed by the subcommittee in June. Changes were made to the draft policy which was then approved by the subcommittee in August.
For more information: Call Urban Design Team Leader Janet Reeves on 941 8999