Concern over developments in Vredehoek

Vredehoek residents called a meeting to discuss an increasing number of developments in the area.

Vredehoek residents held a meeting last week to discuss their concerns about the number of developments in the area.

Top of the agenda was the number of old houses being knocked down to make way for developments and the way the City of Cape Town communicates with its residents about building applications.

Nicola Jowell, a resident who helped organise the meeting, said there had been a significant amount of comments and discussions on the Vredehoek Devils Peak Community Facebook page about the demolitions and developments that have been happening in the area.

“What frustrates me is that, as a community, is that we often work with have the information or incorrect information.

“ As well as that, my experience in the neighbourhood watch has made it so clear that we can’t all work independently and need to try and have collective action. So I felt it necessary to get the community together.”

She said her main concern was that, in some cases, houses which were felt to have had heritage value were demolished to allow for the construction of a multi-story building.

Ms Jowell said: “These buildings are not in keeping with the current ‘streetscape’, the heritage and appeal of the area. They are blocking the light and sun of the smaller houses they are alongside, people’s privacy in their homes is gone,” she said.

There are traffic and congestion issues and the devaluation of the houses surrounding the buildings.

“There were allegations that the City had changed the zoning allowance of the homes so that they could go up higher than was previously allowed,” she added.

“There was significant concern that although there is a Municipal Planning Tribunal, if there are appeals as to that decision then those are heard and determined by the mayor.”

She said while the City’s policy on densification was one that the community has to come to accept as it is a necessity, “there needs be a middle ground that does not put the community solely at a disadvantage”.

She also said she was hoping to see the implementation of the Heritage Protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) in the area, which gives guidlines to developers.

“We understand that we are likely to see this come to fruition next year some time but by then it could be too late for a lot of the character of Vredehoek.

“We have some amazing architecture in this area from the Victorian, arts and craft and Art Deco homes and buildings. What a travesty it would be to see these buildings that define the area being demolished. The HPOZ is by no means a one-stop solution that will save everything but it will go a long way to preserving the feeling of the area.

“Homes that have lost their value due to the neighbouring developments will quickly be snapped up by developers who offer them an inflated price for their property.”

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said the City “Carefully considers all submitted applications within a contextually specific manner, guided by its policies and objectives, and public participation is sought if and when required by applicable legislation.

“Each application is treated upon merit and runs through a stringent system of due process.”

He added that applications are further considered within the context of legislation (such as the Municipal Planning By-law and National Building Regulations) and a number of development policies, including the Table Bay District Plan, Densification Policy, Tall Buildings Policy, and the Urban Design Policy, among others.

The area’s ward councillor, Dave Bryant, who attended last week’s community meeting, said each new development should be evaluated on an individual basis.

“If a resident or an organisation has an issue with a specific application, they should take it up via the City’s system. It is important to note that a lot of new work being undertaken is in line with existing zoning rights.

“In instances where a departure or a rezoning is required, this can be objected to and objectors are entitled to represent themselves at a hearing of the Municipal Planning Tribunal.

“They would also have the option to appeal any decision taken by the tribunal. Issues with work being undertaken during the building process should be raised with the building inspector.”

Mr Bryant added that it was essential that the heritage and character of the City Bowl neighbourhoods be preserved as far as possible.

He said some of the things discussed at the meeting were zoning, planning and the proposed HPOZ.

“The Bo-Kaap HPOZ is virtually complete and work on the Vredehoek HPOZ will begin in January 2017,” he said.

“Vredehoek has very unique Art Deco architecture in some places.”

He explained that proposed demolitions of heritage worthy buildings must be advertised to surrounding neighbours and interested and affected parties in line with the Protection of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA).

“If a resident or an organisation feels that a specific demolition application was not advertised and they were not given the opportunity to object they must take this up with Heritage Western Cape directly.”