Flats come under fire

Considerable vandalism and stripping has taken place at the vacant house in Bayview Road while the developer is waiting for a permit to demolish it.

Wynberg is experiencing an unprecedented increase in developments. This will be the main topic under discussion at tonight’s Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (WRRA) annual general meeting.

WRRA chairperson, Kristina Davidson, said many of the developments are not in keeping with the fabric and character of the suburb and residents are surprised when monolithic flats appear on their doorstep. “That’s because developers are under no obligation to consult neighbours or inform them of their plans if they don’t depart from the City’s zoning scheme regulations. And with most of Wynberg west being zoned to allow buildings of 15m and higher, this trend will dictate our future if we don’t start managing it ourselves,” said Ms Davidson.

Over the past two years modern three- to four-storey blocks have mushroomed, often on sites where cottages have stood for decades, some having historical status.

Ms Davidson said the WRRA is only informed of a new development when permission is required from Heritage Western Cape (HWC).

Heritage specialist, Ashley Lillie, said a permit is required from HWC to demolish buildings older than 60 years. One such building is located on the corner of Bayview and Bower roads.

Mr Lillie said a previous application was made in February last year and a permit authorising demolition issued on March 16. “Transfer of the property has since taken place and as the previous permit was issued in the name of the previous owner, HWC has advised the new owner that a new application is therefore required. Meanwhile considerable vandalism and stripping has taken place at the vacant house,” said Mr Lillie.

He said the house is part of Silverlea Estate and was laid-out in 1902. The Bayview house has had substantial extensions and has been completely re-fenestrated, has no conservation-worthy characteristics, and is located outside of any Heritage Protection Overlay Zone.

The City of Cape Town’s Heritage Resources Section had no objection to the previous demolition application. According to the City’s valuation roll, the large corner plot is worth between R4.5m and R5m.

The Bulletin found that the house should be demolished by the end of this month (February) to make place for a block of flats built by Nova Build, part of the Dogon Group.

David Bruce, on behalf of Nova Build, said due to the present pending litigation they would rather not reply nor comment but will do so at a later stage.

Ms Davidson said the same thing happened at 34 Wellington Avenue where the house had been altered over decades, leaving little heritage value. “We had no grounds to object to the demolition and the heritage consultant (and the WRRA) had not seen any architects proposals. “However, our approval was subject to the new building being in keeping with the cultural landscape of the area and fitting in with neighbouring houses on the west side of Wellington Avenue… single and double-storey houses.

“And that going higher than two storeys would set an undesirable precedent, and yet the developer of the Aldro clearly ignored this condition,” said Ms Davidson.

The Aldro is a 15m high block where flats cost R3 million upwards and all but one have been sold.

Grant Berold, the director of Karma Properties, said the design has been changed from modern as at 21 Wellington Avenue after consultation with heritage resources to a stylised “Cape Georgian” style.

In response to WRRAs caution that what is happening at the Aldro could happen at other properties in Wellington Avenue, Mr Berold said all properties are zoned GR2 and GR4 (general residential) and have been for the past 70 years and both permit blocks of flats. This indicates that the City has always ear-marked this area of Wynberg for development and there is precedent for apartment blocks in the area.

Other properties of concern are:

* 10 Wellington Avenue where an application for the demolition of the house has been lodged with HWC to make way for a 15m flat complex in the style of 21 Wellington Road and The Aldro at 34 Wellington, which is currently under construction. Both 21 Wellington and The Aldro were developed by Karma Properties.

WRRA have opposed the development because there was no consultation process; the envisaged complex does not reflect the character of the neighbourhood, which presently reflects an urban environment comprising single-storey houses; the building is grossly over-scaled; congestion and parking with additional 12 to 24 cars per development accessing narrow streets that are already heavily congested, especially during school terms and rush hour; Karma Properties has used its developments at 21 and 34 Wellington as justification for this new building which could mean that Wellington Avenue could end up lined with blocks of flats.

This would increase pressure on ageing sanitation, water and accessible traffic routes; and future destruction of Wynberg’s unique heritage.

Mr Berold said neighbours were consulted about the demolition application of 10 Wellington Avenue and two objections were received.

The WRRA initially said they had no objection but later retracted this when they became aware that Karma Properties were the owners of the property. “The design of the building has not been finalised but will conform to the design criteria, as laid out in the City of Cape Town’s Zoning Scheme.

* 1 Malton Road, a narrow street leading onto Wellington Avenue where the building has been demolished. WRRA does not know what is planned for the site, but is concerned that it might be a building similar to the five-storey block of flats across the road at 21 Wellington Avenue.

* 12 Seaview Road where application documents for proposed alterations and additions were tabled at a HWC meeting on Tuesday February 6. The WRRA has not yet been consulted about this property.

* The big yellow double-storey buildings on the corner of Brodie Road and Church Street are to be developed and used for the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court. The main building will not be demolished, only a recent addition at the back.

The WRRA and the Old Wynberg Village Society both support the development, saying it has the potential to enhance the streetscape.

Ms Davidson said WRRA is not against development. “It’s got to happen if we want to live in an inclusive, equitable city. The problem is that developers have rights that are more important than any other rights, and they know how to play the system, whereas residents don’t.”

* The WRRA AGM takes place today Thursday February 8, at 6.30pm, at Church on Main, 3 Millbank Road, Wynberg (behind the library).

Plans to devise a precinct strategy will be discussed. Tony Abrahamson, a transportation engineer with a special interest in land use and development, is the guest speaker. Enquiries to Kristina Davidson on 072 174 4673 or Karen Gird on 083 441 9734.