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Our Top 5- Special Character Areas and Development

Do you own a property in a special character or heritage area? Thinking about a new development, or additions to an existing dwelling but not sure where to start? Then this blog series is for you! This is the last blog in our series, all about developing in special character or heritage areas. These blogs are full of useful tips and information, to help you on your development journey. You can access them all on our website,

With a combined 60 years in the industry, we’ve been involved in a huge number of development projects, including many in special character and heritage areas. From our experience, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 things you should know before planning your development in a Special Character Area.

1. Design Features and Materials

Dwellings within the Special Character Area Overlay of the Auckland Unitary Plan usually have special design features and consistent materiality. This can include for example fret work detailing on the front façade of the dwelling, around verandas, and windows. These features often help to characterise a building, the period it was constructed and contribute to the special character of that specific area. These types of features should be retained where possible. It also includes the design, architecture, scale and proportion of buildings and their locations on the site.

The materials of dwellings in Special Character Area Overlay are also usually important. Materials typical in these areas includes weatherboards, corrugated iron roofing and timber joinery. Changes should, where possible, maintain the existing materials, and if that’s not possible use materials that don’t detract from the existing dwelling and character. As an example, we’ve probably all seen modern, silver aluminium joinery on a villa and how this affects the overall look and character of the building.

What if your dwelling is newer?

In some cases, more modern dwellings built in a later period are included within a Special Character Area Overlay. They therefore may not be of heritage design or have special character features and may not contribute to the special character of the wider area. Any additions and alterations proposed to these buildings should still be sympathetic to the character of the surrounding area to ensure that they don’t detract from it.

2. New Buildings

Construction of new buildings within the Special Character Area Overlay requires resource consent. It’s important to be aware that this includes a wide range of structures such as garages, carports, sheds, decks (over 1.5m in height) and swimming pools (over 1m in height or more than 25,000L capacity). These Auckland Unitary Plan rules are in place to ensure that any new building proposed on a site does not notably detract from the special character values of the area.

When considering the construction of a new building it’s also important to take into consideration the design features and materials outlined above to ensure the new building fits with the character of the area.

3. Chimneys

Depending on the specific area and the architecture present, chimneys are features which are often seen to demonstrate heritage character and provide a relationship between dwellings. Where they are important to the character of the building and the street, chimneys are best retained to help maintain the streetscape character of the dwelling.

Chimneys are often proposed to be removed to increase the internal floor area of the dwelling or improve flow. It may be appropriate to provide a faux chimney (a replica chimney) to maintain the appearance of the chimney from the outside. These works also require resource consent and we recommend you discuss this with a Planner experienced in heritage developments before starting any work.

4. Buildings and the streetscape

The relationship the dwelling and other buildings have to the street, and the wider Special Character Area, should be largely maintained when undertaking alterations and additions or constructing new buildings. This includes maintaining a suitable form, mass and scale of built form, and materials. Any changes to the front façade of the building requires specific consideration and should be consistent with the character of the street and surrounding area, fitting with the period of dwellings.

Additions and alterations to the rear of side of the building maybe less visible from the street and can reduce effects on the streetscape depending on their location and scale. These can often be better locations for larger changes to existing buildings.

5. Boundary treatments

Boundary treatments, in particular fences and walls, varied throughout time and what was desired at the time. Different examples include timber picket fences, low plaster or brick walls, natural stone, 3- wire and crinkle wire fencing. Hedging was also popular in some areas.

Changes to boundary treatments should also be designed with consideration to the character of the area- often fences and walls along front boundaries are not present in these areas, or are very low, allowing good views from the street to the buildings. Taller fences could be present on side boundaries. This is a feature of some of these Special Character Areas, and fences over a certain height requires resource consent.

Fences and walls within the Special Character Area Overlay should be kept to a low height and be constricted of materials that are sympathetic to the character of the area. This helps to ensure that the character of the dwelling and its contribution to the streetscape is not impacted by larger scale boundary treatments, that may block views . Often low height white timber picket fences are found in heritage character area. Boundary treatments should be reflective of the surrounding area to ensure they do not dominant the property boundaries impacting on the heritage values of the area.

Need more advice?

If you’re planning on undertaking additions and alterations to your home in Special Character Area Overlay, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. Planning Plus will assist with the process along with the preparation of the resource consent application. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

You can also read out other blogs in this series:

- What’s the Special Character Area (here)

- Chimneys- Why are they such a big deal? (here)

- Special Character Areas and Front Facades (here).

Helen is a Senior Planner at Planning Plus® and has over 15 years’ experience in planning and environmental consulting. Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consents, 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.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and Bachelor of Business (Management) Conjoint Degree and is an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


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 2023

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