File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association is concerned that declaring Bo-Kaap a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) would not prevent the construction of high-rise developments in the historic suburb.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the association pointed to mayor Dan Plato’s speech at last weekend’s public hearings.

Plato had said overlay zone status would not restrict development but ensure that any development took into account the suburb’s architecture, community and history.

At the hearing, residents were warned by private heritage consultants, planners and architects to examine the details of the HPOZ model proposed for Bo-Kaap as it might not be entirely suitable for the suburb.

The association referred to documents setting out the parameters of a HPOZ, which state that “an overlay zone ‘may’ vary the development rules or use rights relating to a property or area, or may set new development rules or use rights”.

“In other words, contrary to the mayor’s pronouncement, development rights may indeed be restricted, and are not subject to an arbitrary decision by any individual or administration,” the association said.

At last week’s hearings, Bo-Kaap residents involved in property development said Bo-Kaap required a “very specific set of guidelines”.

Mujahid Hartley from the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement told the hearings that the community needed to be better informed about the proposed HPOZ. “We are concerned about the unintended consequences of the HPOZ, which our community is oblivious to,” he said.

He was also concerned about the “apparent rush to implement a HPOZ”.

The association said declaring Bo-Kaap an overlay zone would “not change much” for ordinary residents carrying out alterations to their homes as they had always submitted building plans to heritage authorities.

At the heart of the association’s unhappiness are the high-rise buildings being built in Bo-Kaap.

“It said it was concerned about buildings at 117 Strand Street and 40 Lion Street and the proposed “Monster Building”, and future high-rise developments within Bo-Kaap’s boundaries.

“Residential properties with the zoning reference GR4 are allowed to reach up to a staggering eight to nine storeys, commercial properties eight to nine storeys, and business properties can go as high as 12 and 20 storeys with zoning references of Mixed Use 2 and Mixed Use 3 respectively,” said the association.

It said these development rights, which were part of the proposed HPOZ, were not suitable for Bo-Kaap.

“The Bo-Kaap social and cultural environment will remain at high risk unless more detailed height and development restrictions are introduced and legislated as part of the HPOZ,” it said.

Bo-Kaap resident and independent town planner Tommy Brummer warned last week clearly defined building guidelines were needed as without them “the interpretation and implementation of the heritage protection overlay zone (would be left to) one official who assesses the plan”.

The closing date for public comment on the Bo-Kaap HPOZ is Friday.

Weekend Argus