Norwood residents fight to save suburb’s oldest house
Norwood residents are up in arms over the possibility that one of the area's oldest dwellings could be torn down and replaced by a mini complex.
An application for the rezoning of the property, at 2 Nellie Road, was lodged on February 7 but residents have dug in their heels, saying the house is a heritage site.
Now the fight is on to save the 110-year old house, which is worth around R2.3m.
Concerned residents said that replacing the house with a mini complex would create a pocket of density that was inconsistent with the surrounding neighbourhood and contradicted the objectives of the Grant Avenue Precinct Plan.
Norwood/Oaklands Residents Association (Nora) chairperson Brett McDougall said the house was a fine example of Edwardian residential architecture in Johannesburg
“The house was built in 1911 for TR Jones. It is the oldest remaining building in Norwood, and one of the oldest intact bungalows in Johannesburg. Though not well maintained, it is virtually unchanged from the original design,” he said.
The owner of the property, as listed on the title deeds, is Rocky Andre Nel, who according to residents, lives as a vagrant in the Norwood area but sleeps in the house. The company behind the application is called ICON. Efforts to reach it and Nel have been unsuccessful.
McDougall said the matter had garnered massive interest from residents in the area. Many have submitted objections in their personal capacity.
McDougall said Nora was made up of more than 250 residents and they were all opposed to the rezoning application.
“Of concern to residents is the loss of a heritage asset, which has the potential to uplift the area, as the restoration of 52 Nellie Road a few years ago did, ” he said.
ICON, on behalf of Nel, submitted an application to rezone the property from Residential 1 to Residential 3.
“In summary, the area of maximum residential density is directly related to access to retail and services on Grant Avenue, and on recreational and other facilities in neighbouring Paterson Park,” McDougall said.
“If the proposed rezoning were to be allowed, it would be in contradiction of the Grant Avenue Precinct Plan, and would create a density in the quietest part of residential Norwood that is equivalent to Grant Avenue itself.”
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) has also entered the fray. It said: “On the basis of its age, integrity, rarity, and architectural qualities, House Jones should not be demolished. Its placement on the stand allows for subdivision of the stand to allow for development of the portion to the south of the house.”
Trustee at the JHF, Andre Pierre Marais said the procedural manner in which the application had been made was particularly concerning.
“The heritage nature of the house is blatantly obvious and would be known by the professionals advising and involved in the application. As a result of the heritage status of the house, how can it be that the owner proposed developers have not engaged with the heritage authorities to discuss plans in an open and transparent manner? Because of heritage significance, one would expect an application to PHRA-G first before a rezoning application.
“It can thus not be a surprise that warning bells are ringing as to the intention of the owner and other players involved. We believe that all stakeholders should convene around a table, play open cards and discuss intent and investigate a planned route forward which is sensitive to the nature of the property, and does not detract but contributes to the fabric of this special neighbourhood,” Marais said.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has submitted a letter to the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng (PHRAG), highlighting that the applicant was disingenuous in submitting a rezoning application without first submitting an application to the PHRAG, as the rezoning would necessitate the demolition of those structures.
“We believe that the applicant in the rezoning is motivated by greed, and has not properly considered the surrounding residential context, existing precinct plans and heritage legislation,” McDougall said.