Development dispute over vacant lot

Residents have until March 30 to send in their comments regarding Erf 3032.

There is ongoing upset over development plans for a vacant lot in the Bo-Kaap which was sold before the declaration of the Heritage Overlay Protection Zone (HPOZ) granted the area heritage protection.

The Erf 3032, at 150 Buitengracht Street, was bought by Flyt Property Investment in 2017 with an approved building envelope and rights prior to any HPOZ status. They have plans to develop a hotel and restaurant that will, according to Flyt development manager, Sebastian Van Greunen, benefit the community by creating employment and further economic opportunities.

“The original building was demolished in terms of the Heritage Western Cape (HWC) conditions. While we only purchased the property in late 2017, the original owner, I believe, had to delay development due to financial constraints.

“What is holding back development of a hotel and employment opportunities for several years now is ongoing frustration of the approval process,” said Mr Van Greunen.

“Current vacant sites in the Bo-Kaap are acknowledged as being problematic and promote unsavoury activity,” he added.

While the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA) acknowledge that there is an approved plan, they would like the developer to reconsider it.

“This process did not include public participation. Any decision by council must take into consideration the HPOZ, (under which) nothing higher than three of four storeys should be considered for that space,” said BKCRA secretary Jacky Poking.

Mr Van Greunen says they attempted to engage with the community between June and December, 2020 and had also requested that BKCRA suggest a professional team to workshop a design.

“In the past four and a half years we have not received any constructive guidance from the BKCRA, only objection to development in four rounds of public participation. A lack of willingness to engage has been further evidenced by BKCRA’s failure to invite the developer, and land owner in the community, to a public meeting held last Wednesday (March 23),” he said.

Ms Poking told Atlantic Sun that building designs by Statutory Planner, Dr Stephen Townsend, would be submitted to the independent ministerial tribunal as part of their appeal.

“We will also advise the tribunal that we have had limited public participation on this point of design and heritage input, that it would need to be discussed in more details as the immediate neighbours rightly do not want a six- or seven-storey building and that they would prefer a three- or four-storey building in that space as it’s more in line with what is currently found in the block,” she said.

At the BKCRA meeting, which Atlantic Sun attended, residents raised their concerns about whether the developer was aware of the Athaan (call to prayer) as well as their objection to the sale of alcohol.

Mr Van Greunen responded that they were aware of the Islamic culture of the neighbourhood and would not sell alcoholic beverages at the proposed building.

“Tourists to the area are there to celebrate the heritage and culture of the Bo-Kaap. In terms of religious activities, we do not regard this as an issue of concern at all, and commit to respecting these activities,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Eddie Andrews, who is also the mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said because the property was located within the HPOZ for Bo-Kaap, the City’s Development Management Department would consider the possible impact on heritage resources when it assessed any application involving the property.

At the time of publication there was no response from the HWC.

The public participation period for this development closed yesterday, Wednesday March 30.

The BKCRA and residents met at the Auwal mosque on March 23.