The Simon van der Stel Foundation says the old Bantry Bay is disappearing at an alarming rate. Photographer: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
The Simon van der Stel Foundation says the old Bantry Bay is disappearing at an alarming rate. Photographer: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Clash over Bantry Bay’s heritage being lost to building demolitions

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Apr 13, 2021

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Cape Town - The Simon van der Stel Heritage Foundation, a conservation lobby group, is up in arms over the alarming rate at which Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has been wiping out the history of the old Bantry Bay by allowing the demolition of structures considered to be of heritage importance.

HWC issued demolition permits for four 20th century buildings situated on Saunders Road and on Bantry Road.

The foundation submitted objections against the demolition of these buildings which it said were important heritage resources that still contributed positively to the enjoyment of this old neighbourhood.

Foundation chairperson Ian Pretorius said Bantry Bay has suffered numerous losses because of demolitions over the past 20 years.

“These early 20th century buildings represent the very early architectural and urban-making fabric of old Bantry Bay. If we wipe out these tangible reminders of a neighbourhood’s past and the achievements of our forebears, we will end up with a sterile, monotonous neighbourhood that looks like any other modern neighbourhood in the world.

“We must preserve the richness of different architectural styles, artistic expression and building materials to maintain an aesthetically varied and inspiring urban environment,” he said.

Pretorius said Heritage management seemed to favour protection of old buildings that were situated in a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) .

“Bo-Kaap was, for instance, recently declared a HPOZ, meaning that the entire neighbourhood must conform to heritage legislation.

“Huge areas in Cape Town do not qualify as a HPOZ because there are not enough historic buildings left in those areas. The danger is, like now in Bantry Bay, that these few loose standing historic buildings are given demolition permits as HWC and Heritage practitioners argue that these buildings have ’lost their context’.

“Our argument is that the few that are left over are precious as it is all that remains. These old buildings contribute to the sense of history in Cape Town and must be retained,” Pretorius said.

He said many people have remarked how sad it was to lose old, well-built structures to the monotony of box-like mass-produced “international buildings” that showed no geographic or cultural relevance to Cape Town or Bantry Bay.

Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents’ Association (SFB) chairperson Michael Ender said the provincial heritage authority had deemed the area not to be of significant enough heritage value and this meant that developers had free rein to do as they wished.

Ender said they anticipated that the development pressure on the SFB area would increase in the future.

“We know that developers are placing significant pressure on the provincial and city heritage authorities to dilute even further the current legal measures that are in place to protect our fragile and vulnerable built heritage.

“Rather, as the SFB, we are asking the City and the province to do more to protect and conserve these valuable assets for current and future generations. A good start would be for the heritage authorities to do a thorough assessment of the remaining heritage structures in the area, and in the city as a whole, so as to produce a register of buildings, spaces and places deemed to be of heritage value, and therefore protection,” he said.

HWC acting chief executive Colette Scheermeyer said the structures were considered to have insufficient heritage significance to warrant retention and were not within a declared or proposed Heritage Protection Overlay.

“As a heritage authority, if there is no heritage context to formally protect the structure nor does the structure possess heritage value, HWC has no valid reason for not issuing a permit,” she said.

Cape Argus

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