Multimillion-rand development in Bo-Kaap shelved
Cape Town - A multimillion-rand development planned for Bo-Kaap has been halted after Heritage Western Cape (HWC) granted provisional and provincial protection for 148 and 150 Buitengracht Street.
Residents said the rich heritage and surroundings would be under threat should the development proceed.
HWC Inventories, Grading and Interpretation committee chairperson Ron Martin said: “We do have the background information on the long history of the site. The committee recommends that the process of declaring 148 Buitengracht Street as a provincial heritage site in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act be initiated as well as (with) 150 Buitengracht Street.”
Two applications by the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association were presented to HWC. The association called for provincial protection for 148 Buitengracht Street and a provisional protection of 150 Buitengracht Street. The association was also requested to provide additional information for each one of the sites. A 60-day public participation process will get under way and depending on comments received on the site a provincial status would be granted.
Dr Stephen Townsend, a representative of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, said: “This is a vital building in Bo-Kaap and this building has been here for years. The civic attempt is to get HWC to have some legal authority to have an impact on the proposal. It’s really part of the town façade, the surroundings are very much endangered.”
Townsend said the site is part of the heritage resource part of the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone that was declared by the City last year.
“This piece of ground is very much part of the heritage resource and the sad part is that you cannot turn away from this proposal. This will have a negative impact on the area,” he said.
In November last year, the Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC’s independent appeal tribunal dismissed an appeal by Any Side Investment relating to 150 Buitengracht Street.
The proposed construction is a 9-storey mixed-use development next to the historic Auwal Mosque. It includes retail and short-term rentals with only five parking bays. Bo-Kaap residents said it was out of character with the historic Bo-Kaap buildings.
Initially, approval was given to the developers to demolish the current houses on the site but then an appeal was lodged, delaying their plans. Any Side Investments said the site had been vacant for over 10 years and they acquired the property in 2017, with heritage-approved rights in place for a 9-storey building.
However, the group had appealed a decision by HWC on December 12, 2018, where the built environment and landscape committee did not approve their proposal of a significant amendment to a set of plans that were approved in 2007. The developers were hoping to amend some of the conditions that formed part of the 2007 decision.
Attorney for the developer Nicholos Smith said: “There is a name change of the owner but there are no new owners. The proposal should not be further entertained because it contains a lack of merit. There are no tangible or intangible heritage resources and it does not qualify for provisional protection”
Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association chairperson Osman Shaboodien said: “We are grateful that it can be a heritage site; the site itself could be protected against any unsightly development in front of it. We are thrilled about it. We are encouraging all the residents that are interested in this to participate in this.”
But concerns are mounting that investors could pull out of Cape Town, worsening the economic climate and putting jobs at risk.
Western Cape Property Development Forum chairperson Deon van Zyl said: “We are sitting with a legislative crisis and heritage is something that is often used and abused.
“The question is whether HWC has adopted new ways during the Covid-19 pandemic. What we need to have a conversation about is whether those in charge thought of what the area would look like in the next few years.
“Heritage in SA is quite complex because the maintenance is on owners. If society wants something declared a heritage site they must contribute financially. Our industry is bleeding, especially in the developments sector.”