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Streetscape Impacts in the Special Character Areas – What do you need to consider?

In our blog last week, we talked about designing and planning development to preserve heritage values of heritage buildings and within special character areas. This week we will focus on how to minimise streetscape impacts through the design and development in the Special Character Areas Overlay (SCAR) of the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP).

Streetscape in the SCAR

The SCAR overlay identifies specific areas for specific reasons- knowing what these reasons are can help guide your development plans. Schedule 15 (Special Character Schedule, Statements and Maps, you can access it here) under the AUP(OP) identifies these key special character values and physical and visual qualities which contribute to the predominant character of each special character area. You should read this when starting your development planning.

To ensure the quality and visual cohesiveness of the streetscape in the SCAR is maintained, the AUP(OP) restricts development within this overlay, and the thresholds for needing resource consent are low. Restrictions include those relating to alterations or additions to an existing building, construction of a new building (including accessory buildings such as a garage), relocating a building on the site, or building a fence or boundary wall. Before designing and planning development in the SCAR, it is important to understand what the key attributes are for your specific streetscape and how your development could be designed so it doesn’t compromise these.

What do you need to consider?

Built Form, Design and Architectural Values

The built form, design and architectural values are key elements contributing to the special values of a SCAR. The form, mass, proportion and scale of any external additions and alterations, and any new building should be consistent with those of the existing building and the area, especially when visible from the street. In terms of design, decorations or architectural features such as roof form, window details, doors and verandas, these should follow the characteristics of the existing buildings and other buildings of the same period in the street. It is also important to utilise materials and colours that are consistent with the existing buildings. This helps to maintain the overall streetscape values, and will increase the likelihood of your resource consent being granted.

Often additions or new buildings are better established to the rear or side of the site, where they are less visible, and their placement will avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the streetscape.

Boundary treatments

Fences and boundary walls are also often part of the special character features of a SCAR as they’re highly visible from the street. Fences and retaining walls are often at a low height in this overlay, and this enables views from the street to the building and vice versa, providing a visual linkage between the buildings and the street. This connection is an important part of the overall streetscape.

Under the AUP(OP), the height of a fence and boundary wall within the SCAR is limited to 1.2m high, to ensure that these visual connections are maintained. There may be some cases where a higher fence/ wall is appropriate, but you should discuss this with your planner. It is also recommended the materiality of the fencing be in keeping with the original fencing or retaining walls, or consistent with the Special Character Statement.

Often buildings in the SCAR areas are generously setback from the street to maintain the landscaped front yards. You should also consider this in your site design.

Design, Location of Car-parking and Garaging

A lot of sites in the SCAR area do not have a driveway or a garage, and often people are looking to add these as part of modernising these older properties. As a garage can become a dominant feature of a site, the location, size and design of the garage and its access need to be carefully considered. The garage should not obstruct the dwelling when viewed from the street and ideally should be located to the side/ rear of the building. The design of the garage should be sympathetic to the existing building, which can be achieved through incorporating a similar roof design to the existing building, using similar materials and finishes and making sure the garage is in proportion in terms of size, with the dwelling. Alternative options such as a car pad may also suit your needs and have even less of an effect on the special character of the area.

When designing your crossing and driveway, site constraints including street tree locations should be taken into account. Street trees are often protected by the AUP(OP) and can also help shape the special character of an area. You can find out more about protected trees in this blog. Works to street trees will require a Tree Owner Approval (TOA) from the Urban Tree team within Auckland Council, essentially a “landowner” type approval. In general, the Council’s preference is that street trees are retained and that works to them are minimised. It can be difficult to obtain TOA for tree removal and more intrusive works. If you can locate a crossing or any other works well away from street trees, this is recommended.

Need more advice on your property?

If you are uncertain about what are the special character values in a particular SCAR area that need to be considered in your proposal, please 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 a lot of other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey.

Claire is an Intermediate Planner at Planning Plus and has 4 years of experience in resource consenting. Claire has been involved various projects which include the preparation and assessment of resource consents for residential developments and subdivisions consents.

Claire holds the qualification of Bachelor of Urban Planning (Honours) and is an Intermediate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.

In addition to her planning expertise, Claire is also fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.


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.

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