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Development in heritage areas

Updated: Feb 20

The protection of historic heritage buildings and special character areas (with heritage character values) requires careful consideration when designing and planning development, be that an extension, changing aspects of the existing building, subdividing or building something new.

The Auckland Unitary Plan – Operative in Part (AUP(OP)), sets out rules and standards which controls development within these heritage areas to ensure that inappropriate development does not compromise historic heritage and character values. Often development here triggers the need for resource consent.

This blog takes a high-level look at development in the Special Character Areas Overlay (SCAR) and to heritage buildings. It forms part of a series of blogs written relating to working in the SCAR. You can find the other blogs on our website,

Maintenance and Repair

Often heritage buildings, given their age, require substantial amounts of restoration and repair due to ongoing deterioration of materials. In terms of design, restoration and repair should not include the modification or change in material types or design elements- essentially it should be like for like. This will ensure that the heritage character of buildings and special character values of the area preserved. Maintenance and repair are generally provided for by the AUP(OP) as a permitted activity.

Additions and Alterations

The design, size, and layout of buildings, particularly dwellings within the heritage character areas, can make additions or alterations desirable. Often this is to make the home more suitable for modern day living such as by adding living rooms, bathrooms or making bedrooms larger. This often includes increasing the size of the home, and often changing the layout such as providing an open plan living area. Often heritage and character homes do not have any indoor – outdoor flow which is a desirable feature for modern day living. Additions and alterations in the Special Character Area Overlays usually require resource consent under the AUP(OP).

When considering additions and alterations to existing buildings, we recommend engaging an architect familiar with working on heritage and character homes and the constraints this creates. If your building is listed as a Scheduled Heritage Building (recognised as having specific heritage value) you may also need to engage a Heritage Specialist. This will ensure that heritage design features are preserved through the development.

When planning additions and alterations it is important to look at the design, materials and character of the home and incorporate these into your design. For example, if a dwelling is a 1900’s villa, the design should be utilising consistent materials such as weather board, and corrugated iron roofing, maintaining the appearance of the front façade of the dwelling (including special character features such as verandas, ornamental fretwork and relationship of the dwelling to the street). Minimising changes to the front façade of the home is often recommended as these often hold key heritage design elements.

Additions and alterations are often recommended to the rear of the dwelling, as this preserves the design character of the front façade of a home and the streetscape. This often results in a better fit with the layout of heritage character areas, where the homes were often located towards the road frontage of the property leaving area at the back of the dwelling for an extension. When undertaking rear additions these should still complement the existing home and its special character values. The design of additions and alterations therefore often retain existing setbacks from site boundaries, retain features such as window sizing and framing and utilise materials which are consistent with the dwelling. Brick chimneys are also often a prominent feature on dwellings, and these should where possible be retained.

New Builds

A development involving new builds is not commonplace in heritage character areas, as vacant sections are typically uncommon. Therefore, to propose a new build, would mean demolition or relocation of the existing building in the site. The removal (and movement within a site) of a scheduled heritage building is highly controlled by the AUP(OP), and demolition is discouraged. The risk associated with such a resource consent application depends on what you want to do and how valuable the building is- we highly recommend you get specialist advice early in your development process.

Moving a building within a special character area overlay also requires resource consnet and should be thoroughly investigated from the outset. Upfront specialist advise will avoid progressing a project which may not be consistent with rules and standards of the AUP(OP) and is unlikely to gain resource consent.

Need more advice on your property?

If you own a property within the Historic Heritage Overlay or Special Character Area Overlay and are looking at potential development options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. Planning Plus can assist with the process along with the preparation of the resource consent application. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966. We also have many other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey.

About the author: Helen Heard is a Senior Planner at Planning Plus and has over 13 years’ experience in planning and environmental consulting. Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consent applications, compliance monitoring, environmental auditing, community consultation and environmental fund coordination. Her background has provided

her with a wide range and thorough understanding of technical and environmental inputs.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2024

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