Bo-Kaap building plan halted

Another development in Bo-Kaap has been approved.

A development planned for Bo-Kaap has been stopped after Heritage Western Cape (HWC) granted provincial and provisional protection for 148 and 150 Buitengracht Street.

This follows HWC’s Inventories, Grading and Interpretation committee’s recommendation that the process of declaring 148 and 150 Buitengracht Street as provincial heritage sites be initiated.

The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA) made two applications to the HWC for provincial protection for 148 Buitengracht Street and provisional protection of 150 Buitengracht Street.

They said the development would have a negative impact not only on the built environment but also on the social fabric of the Bo-Kaap community.

They argued that it would add to the destruction of the “living heritage”, the intangible heritage of Bo-Kaap, that is unique.

A 60-day public participation process is expected to get under way and depending on comments received on the site a provincial status would be granted.

The matter dates back to 2018 when developers, Any Side Investments, proposed significant changes to their development plan for 150 Buitengracht Street, which had been given the go-ahead in 2017.

The proposed plan included the construction of a nine-storey mixed-use development next to the historic Auwal Mosque, which would include retail and short-term rentals with five parking bays. Residents were concerned that the development would tower over the surrounding buildings and was out of character with historic Bo-Kaap buildings.

The application was turned down by HWC’s Built Environment and Landscape Committee, which the developers appealed. This appeal, however, was dismissed and subsequently escalated to the Cultural Affairs and Sports Independent Appeal Tribunal – which also dismissed the appeal, describing the multi-storey building as an “unsympathetic response” to the heritage sites adjacent to it.

The tribunal stated:” The cohesion and nature of this historic built environment disappears only when one crosses over Wale Street as you progress down Buitengracht Street northwards towards Table Bay. These new much bulkier and taller buildings are problematic in themselves as they have formed a chasm along the street and effectively cut off the Bo-Kaap from the city, particularly visually.

“We are of the view that the permissible bulk, scale and height of the new development on this site is inappropriate for the environment in which it is situated, which as was observed during the site visit, consists of fine-grained, small scale buildings primarily residential in nature, the height whereof are almost entirely one or two stories and environs with the minarets of the neighbouring mosques serving as landmark elements in the built fabric.”

BKCRA’s representative, Dr Stephen Townsend, told Cape Argus that 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 facade, the surroundings are very much endangered.

“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.