Urban Design Advisory Panel


"Urban Design" can be defined as 'The art of making places'.  It is not only about the design and look of individual buildings. It involves the design of buildings, groups of buildings, spaces and places.  It's about thinking about the future and how to make our city and your development work well now, and for years to come.

CBD DC Remission

The Council recently resolved that "all buildings gaining CBD remissions must engage with the urban design panel process".

What does this mean for me? If you intend applying for a CBD remission, we're asking that you send your request, along with all the relevant information, to urban.dc@hcc.govt.nz. This information will then be assessed to determine whether further input from the Panel is needed. If the panel does need to be involved, we'll contact you regarding the next steps. If not, we'll let you know the engagement process has been completed.

What information do I need to provide?  The information required is the same as for any other submission to the Panel (see below) but is naturally dependent on the exact nature of the project.

For more information on Development Contributions and how to request a remission, please visit our Development Contributions page.

What is the panel looking to achieve? 

Quality buildings, good design and successful developments.

The Urban Design Panel provides professional and independent advice on proposed projects. And the best part, it's FREE!

Using the Urban Design Panel can make the consenting process quicker and more streamlined. They're here to help.

Expertise on the 14-person panel includes engineering, planning, architecture, arts and landscape architecture. Find out who the panel are here.

What is the role of the UDP?

The Panel provides free, professional and independent advice on proposed projects.

They look at proposed projects and provide advice and recommendations to the applicant on improvements which could be made. The Panel also promote good design and a quality environment.

Why should I use the Panel?

The Panel is optional although can help make the consenting process quicker by advising on aspects of your proposal which may not have good urban design amongst other aspects.

The panel provides recommendations on the merits of a design within the context of the VISTA (The City Design Guide) and international best practice. 

Should my project go to the Panel?

We recommended applicants take up the offer when presented as the Panel will help identify and resolve any urban design issues at the start of the design process.

Any project or proposal (irrespective of its size, scale or location) can benefit from the expertise available on the Panel.  The following general criteria are used:

AreaCriteria/project type​Notes
City Centre ZoneSignificant building & capital projectsPanel should review projects regardless of activity status in the District Plan.
Community/commercial focal pointsPublic buildings, commercial, community and residential projects
Strategic gateways to citySignificant buildings in defined gateway areas​
Defined heritage and character precincts and archaeological sitesNew buildings and additions and alterations to heritage buildings & structures.  This includes works within an archaeological/cultural site
Residential ZonesApartments, Integrated Residential Developments and DuplexesSmaller (4 units and under) should typically not go to the Panel.
SubdivisionsSignificant new subdivisions – close to key points of interest impacting ecological features or large suburban developments.Generally >50 units.
Council capital projectsDesign brief, design proposals & preliminary concepts for: public buildings, spaces (parks, squares), streetscapes 
Other public projectsMajor public works by government departments and other organisations e.g. schools, health, transport 

The advice and recommendations from the Panel is in addition to the urban design assessment that takes place as part of the processing of resource consents.

What aspects do the Panel consider?

Typically under the Hamilton District Plan, most new buildings (including residential units such as duplexes and apartments) will require resource consent and more often than not, Council has discretion over the design, layout and character aspects of the proposal.  By helping to address these key urban design considerations early in the design and development process, the Panel can enable a quicker, easier resource consent process.

In reviewing proposals, the Panel will focus on the appropriateness of the proposal in relation to its physical, social and cultural context, including any identified heritage values. The Panel will consider the overall quality of the development and its architecture, as well as its appearance from the street and public spaces.

Elements the Panel would typically consider include:

  • ​​​​​​​​​extent to which best practice urban design principles have been incorporated
  • the 'fit' of the proposal within the context, including the proposed activity (or mix of activities)
  • proposed bulk, location, scale, layout and building design, including how these respond to the opportunities and constraints of the site and the character of the surrounding neighbourhood
  • landscaping and interface with the public environment, including the design of any proposed streets or access ways
  • ground floor activities and the relationship with the street/public environment
  • how the development will work for both users and the public, including safety, circulation and servicing
  • impact of the proposal on any other adjacent project
  • inclusion of measures aimed at achieving sustainable building design and low-impact urban design outcomes
  • the standard of living and on-site amenity created for existing and future residents (residential developments).

What information do I need to provide the Panel?

Extensive presentation material and detailed designs are not required.  Material can include preliminary concepts (eg hand-drawn sketches) sufficient to describe the site and the proposed approach. Other documentation, such as an assessment of environmental effects, is not needed.

It would be useful to consider the following:

  • the surrounding context – maps, analysis plans
  • an outline of proposal sufficient to describe the proposed uses, circulation, bulk and location, building typologies
  • initial thoughts on the proposed architectural and landscape approach including any preliminary plans, elevations, sketches
  • any other supporting material as appropriate (eg heritage, natural hazards)

How can I get my proposal to be considered by the Panel?

The Panel meet on the last Wednesday of every month.  To confirm an appointment with the Panel:

  1. Initial discussion with Council staff to review proposal and agree on the need for a Panel review
  2. Review key issues and material required
  3. Confirmation of date, time and venue.

Typically after the review, a follow-up meeting to discuss key issues raised by Panel will be held with Council staff.

For further details regarding the Panel, including requesting a meeting, please email Colin Hattingh (Senior Urban Design Planner) or direct dial at 07 8386702.  Staff from the Planning Guidance Unit will also be able to advise further in this regard.

Are there terms of reference for the Panel?

The format, membership and Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Panel were reviewed in August 2017.  The Panel is supported by and acts under the delegation of the General Manager City Growth.​

Is Hamilton part of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol?

Hamilton is a signatory to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol which provides a platform to help make New Zealand towns and cities more successful through quality urban design.  The protocol is administered by the Ministry for the Environment.

Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest

To maintain the confidence of developers, meetings with the Panel are confidential and closed to all but the applicant's nominated representatives, Council staff and the Panellists, unless the applicant indicates they are willing for it to be public.  All Panellists, and any additional experts in attendance, are also required to declare if they have a conflict of interest.

Other relevant links:

The following information is available for download:

Page reviewed: 22 Feb 2022 5:22am