THE development has faced numerous challenges and sparked backlash from housing activists, residents in Observatory, Khoi and San councils. Picture: Supplied
THE development has faced numerous challenges and sparked backlash from housing activists, residents in Observatory, Khoi and San councils. Picture: Supplied

Controversial R4bn River Club development gets conditional go-ahead from City

By Theolin Tembo Time of article published Apr 20, 2021

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Cape Town – The City of Cape Town announced that the controversial R4 billion River Club Development has the go-ahead after being approved for development by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust.

The development has faced numerous challenges and sparked backlash from housing activists, residents in Observatory, Khoi and San councils.

The City of Cape Town even lodged an appeal against the environmental authorisation (EA) that was granted by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning last month, which had given the development the go-ahead last year.

On Monday, the Cape Argus reported that the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) has taken to social media to raise funds via the BackaBuddy platform to help pay for legal action against the development.

The OCA represents the interests of residents and businesses in Observatory and has partnered with over 60 Khoi groups, environmental NGOs and civic associations in opposition to the River Club development proposed by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) which owns and operates the River Club in Observatory.

LLPT has proposed the construction of several 10-storey buildings and 11.7 hectares of building in the middle of a 100-year-old flood plain. Estimated to cost R4bn, the project will include residential, retail and commercial components, a hotel, offices, conference centre and schools.

The announcement that the development could go ahead was made on Monday evening by the City, which touted the planned mixed-use development as a “significant boost to the Cape Town economy".

The City said that the development “strikes that balance, with a combination of well-located residential and commercial opportunities” and that "the proposed development will meet the requirements of inclusivity and integration“.

Other parts of the development include:

  • 59 600 sqm2 office space.
  • 20 700 sqm2 retail space.
  • 8 200 sqm2 hotel.
  • 4 100 sqm2 gym.
  • Restaurants, conferencing, school and events space.
  • The developer stated that 20% of the residential floor space will be allocated for affordable housing opportunities.

The City also stated that US retail giant, Amazon, will be the anchor tenant, opening a base of operations on the African continent.

Executive Mayor Dan Plato said: “The planned mixed-use development will be a significant boost to the economy and the people of Cape Town in the aftermath of the national Covid-19 lockdown.

“The City has carefully and thoroughly considered all of the submissions and concerns during the appeal process. We are acutely aware of the need to balance investment and job creation, along with heritage and planning considerations.

“It is clear that this development offers many economic, social and environmental benefits for the area,” Plato said.

While the development has been approved “as a concept”, conditions have been attached requiring further stages of approval during which the developer must submit detailed plans on a range of development aspects.

The development is expected to take place in phases, with construction set to take place over three to five years.

The development of Precinct 1 includes mixed used and a floor space of about 60 000 sqm2. Precinct 2 will house the Amazon headquarters, which is 70 000 sqm2 of floor space.

The City said the building height will not exceed 44m and was amended out of sensitivity to the neighbouring SA Astronomical Observatory.

“However, the site is no longer used for astronomical optical observations. The taller buildings will be located on the other side of the site, facing the Berkley Road extension.”

It was also announced that the developer shall incorporate the following features to commemorate the heritage significance of the site:

  • An indigenous garden.
  • Cultural, heritage and media centre for the First Nations.
  • A heritage-eco trail.
  • A garden amphitheatre for use by the First Nations and public.
  • Symbols central to the First Nations narrative.
  • Naming of internal roads inspired by the First Nations narrative.

“The developer must invite and consider representations from at least the First Nations Collective before these are submitted as part of the relevant detailed landscape plan or building plan for each feature.

“The City will have further opportunity to assess in more detail the heritage commemoration plans of the developer once these are submitted in later phases for approval.

“It must further be emphasised that indigenous Khoi groups have voiced support for the development,” the City said.

The City said that it has carried out its duties and responsibilities related to this land use application with the highest ethical and legal compliance.

“Having taken into consideration all these factors, the mayor – as the final adjudicator of planning appeals – gave the go-ahead for the development, which is set to result in a vibrant business and residential precinct that will unlock enormous investment and job creation potential.”

Read the full release here.

Cape Argus

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