Palm House appeal granted

The decades-old house on the Palm House property gives the property its heritage value.

The Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association are challenging the plans for a five-storey block of flats on the Palm House property. They are supported by a group of about 50 residents in Kenilworth.

“While Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has in principle approved the development, it seems they did so after having been provided with inadequate information,” the WRRA said on its website.

The residents, represented by Barnett Herdien, successfully appealed the HWC decision, yesterday, Wednesday September 21.

The appeal was successful because “consultation was not done properly”, Mr Herdien said.

“The whole process will have to be started all over again,” Mr Herdien said.

Palm House has been operating as a guest house since 2012. The large property, which lies between Oxford and Tennant roads, is zoned GR4, which means the owners would ordinarily be allowed to build up to 25 metres. The rest of the area is zoned SR1, which is residential.

According to the WRRA, residents were “dismayed” when they discovered that the property had been rezoned.

“When was Palm House rezoned to GR4? This is unclear, but it seems to have been rezoned in 2012 when the City introduced its new zoning scheme,” its website read.

“Were there restrictions attached to the rezoning? City planners have confirmed that the rezoning included limitations that no building higher than two storeys and no new dwellings could be erected. It seems the GR4 zoning was granted in order to permit Palm House to function as a guest house.

“Why were these restrictions not considered by HWC? The heritage specialist employed by HWC to investigate the proposed development was never told about the restrictions, although he specifically inquired about rezoning and other limitations.

“The application to develop has been sitting with LUM (the City’s Land Use Management )since September last year, but neither they nor any other involved party seems to have picked up or been informed of the restrictions.

There was also no referral to the restrictions in the documents provided by the developer.”

The planned changes have stoked the ire of residents.

“Residents were not consulted about the development,” the website states. “The rezoning limitations were ignored.”

The WRRA feels the changes would impact the area negatively.

“Other heritage properties in the area will be impaired. For instance, the planned block is to be erected between Palm House and a Herbert Baker property with a major landmark tower that could be obscured by the block. While the Palm House residence itself will remain, some of the 100-year-old palm trees will be uprooted. The proposed block will be an aesthetic eyesore and disturb the heritage fabric of the suburb. Traffic and road safety will be severely compromised as the entrance to the new block of flats will be opposite Wynberg Boys’ Junior School.”

HWC will make a recommendation after the appeal and the application would be considered by City’s Land Use Management (LUM), “who may or may not take note of the HWC recommendation” the website said.”

Mr Herdien said they are also looking at challenging the 2012 zoning ruling on the basis of a lack of consultation.

“Another option is to challenge the validity of the rezoning status under the by-law of 2012, in that rezoning lapses after two years and a new application must be made,” Mr Herdien said. “Under the amended zoning by-laws, the expiry date has been extended to five years.”

Residents introduced several documents to HWC which shows that, in a rezoning application in 1990, it was established that the previous owners of the Palm House property could not build other dwellings on the site, nor could they extend the current dwellings beyond two storeys high.

Paul Scarlett, of the Scarlett Group which owns the property, said the idea was to look at the feasibility of building on part of the unused portion of the land, “but only in terms of the zoning allowance”.

“The new development generates the funds required to renovate the existing guest house, thereby retaining the original character of this building as demanded by Western Cape Heritage,” Mr Scarlett said by email.

“The developer engaged to do the feasibility has employed a traffic engineer to advise on the layout, for the proposed development, which will have the least negative impact on traffic. This is the only scale of development which will preserve these large old Cape Town mansions for posterity. These large houses are very difficult to maintain from an affordability point of view and developing the remaining land protects and preserves this magnificent building for future generations.”

Mr Scarlett said the group understood that the complaints had been from residents who had recently purchased their properties and who possibly did not take into consideration that its GR4 (“General Residential R4) parcel of land that could be developed at any time and as per the town planning scheme.

“Our project in no way removes their rights or reduces their property value; if anything the proposed development would set a new price level for the area and would serve to bolster property prices. We believe that the proposed project would have a positive impact on the neighbourhood.”