Wednesday November 4, 2015
THE City of Cape Town has been heavily criticized for supporting a proposal to build a “spaceship galactica” glass office block on top of one of the city’s great historical landmarks, the Martin Melck warehouse.
The decision has left the Habitat Council fuming – and it says it is considering appealing to the Western Cape High Court to overturn the decision.
At its monthly meeting yesterday, the City’s mayoral committee supported recommendations, subject to strict conditions, to develop and refurbish the two-storey warehouse built by the Dutch, in Strand Street.
On September 9, the City’s Spatial Planning, Environment and Land Use Management Committee (Spelum) turned down the controversial application for the warehouse to be developed.
The City said yesterday the property had been “much-altered” over the centuries and was in a “somewhat” degraded state, with little original internal fabric remaining.
“We are not altogether clear on what the City’s procedures are now under a new by-law passed in July 2015. Currently, amendments are being circulated for comment. We have not had a chance to study these. But to the best of our knowledge, the mayoral committee has given itself the powers to overturn decisions taken by Spelum,” said Habitat Council chief executive Marie-Lou Roux. Spelum had voted against approval of the application three times – in 2011, 2013 and this year. She said the applicant had the right to appeal if the Spelum decision went against its application.
“But we, the objectors, do not have the right to appeal against the mayoral committee decision. We are not sure whether its decision today was only a recommendation, which has to be ratified at the full City Council.” she said.
Roux said the items on yesterday’s agenda were “hurriedly dealt with” Because the mayco had held a closed meeting the day before, during which it made decisions on the items, including this one.
“A member of the mayoral committee spoke on the final report given by the team of officials, who, with respect to the amended application, gave their support, in spite of their having in 2011 and in 2013 come out against the application being approved. What he spoke on was what also appeared in the minutes of the previous mayco meeting, which were handed out to us at today’s meeting. What was recommended was that the application to develop in the Hermitage Protection Overlay Zone be approved,” she said.
Mayco member for Energy Environmental and Spatial Planning Johan van der Merwe said the recommendations were developed after months of public participation, “The public input has resulted in strict conditions which include the provision of a Restoration and Heritage Conservation Management Plan by the private developer, and archaeological monitoring during construction,” said Van der Merwe.
The proposals were supported by the SA Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Heritage Western Cape (HWCI and the City’s Environmental Resource Management Department. “To effectively conserve areas and buildings of historical significance, the City is, dependent on the involvement of the private sector. The City and in effect our ratepayers, cannot alone be responsible for the funds to ensure that much-needed conservation takes place” he said.
“By imposing and enforcing strict building conditions, the necessary resources can be injected into historical spaces in a responsible and forward-looking manner; degradation can be prevented and the conservation of historical places can be enhanced for our future generations.”
Julian Melck, a descendant of Martin Melck said: “We are appalled by the City’s decision to support the proposal for development. I did not know that the vote would take place today until I was informed by e-mail by the Cape Times”.
He said the mayor had ignored a decision that was taken by one of the City’s own committees (the Spelum committee), which was opposed to the development.