Building raises eye

A proposal to demolish a property that is older than 60 years and replace it with a six-storey apartment building is causing concern among Woodstock residents­.

Upper Woodstock residents say while they are willing to let the owner of the house demolish it, they will not accept the proposed six-storey replacement.

The property owner is planning to submit an application to Heritage Western Cape for a permit to break down a property in Devonshire Street.

People’s Post is in possession of the heritage report that will apparently accompany the application in terms of Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999).

The report consists mainly of photographs to illustrate the cultural significance of the building with some notes. A heritage specialist will apparently undertake the demolition application.

Local residents have rejected the redevelopment proposal and argue that the planned skyscraper is “inappropriate” for the area.

A number of locals made their feelings known at an informal meeting attended by residents from Devonshire Street, as well as nearby Palmerston and Bideford roads, on Thursday 16 August. Several of them said they had moved to Woodstock and purchased properties there because of the aesthetic of the area – including single-storey residential homes, the heritage and historic character, and views of the sea and mountains.

Mark Borzsony, a representative of the developer, was present at the meeting and pleaded the case for redevelopment. Borzsony said the developer’s plan is to create a new, innovative and well-designed structure with a “luxury” aesthetic in the place of the Devonshire Street property, which he says is in a poor condition and has little remaining heritage value. He said the developer believes the proposed building will improve the site, enhance Devonshire Street and the surrounding neighbourhood, and increase property values.

However, the locals are not convinced.

Even though they agree with Borzsony that the property in Devonshire Street no longer holds significant heritage value, they are against the planned new structure.

The development proposal is currently being considered by the Woodstock Aesthetics Committee, which is part of the Woodstock Residents’ Association.

“The proposed building is simply inappropriate,” the committee’s chairperson, Ernest Ford, stressed at the meeting.

The residents’ concerns include that the building will significantly alter the character of Devonshire Road and surrounding area and, if approved, may set a precedent for similar future development.

They also say the structure could detract from the character of the neighbourhood and property values.

Another concern is to ensure that it will contain “luxury” residential units only, and that it is not zoned for business, and that no provision will be made for low-cost or affordable housing within the building.

The residents believe the building is too tall, considering most surrounding properties are single storey, and there are questions about the shadow cast over neighbouring properties.

Residents raised concerns about additional traffic and parking in Devonshire Road and say the building would obscure sea and mountain view.

The aesthetics committee will consider the current proposal and provide feedback. More public meetings will be held by residents to discuss the matter.

In order for the development to go forward, Western Cape Heritage needs to approve the demolition of 14 Devonshire Street. If permission is granted, there may be other opportunities for public participation, but this will depend on the council, the meeting resolved.

Heritage Western Cape had not responded to questions by the time of going to press.

However, according to the report in People’s Post’s possession, if the provincial heritage authority refuses the application, protection of the property would have to be considered within three months of the refusal.

The report further states that the structure does not fall inside any of the Cape Metro’s heritage protection overlay zones and a land-use application is not needed.

A land-use application might be required for issues other than heritage-related matters, says the report.

Further, the proposed demolition will involve an application to the Department of Planning and Building Development of the City of Cape Town to obtain a written authorisation to demolish in terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (Act 103/1977) before the action can be undertaken.

The building appears on 1945 aerial photographs which makes it older than 60 years.

It therefore enjoys a general protection which requires a permit in terms of Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) (NHRAct) to demolish the structure or to execute any form of alteration on the structure.