Battle intensifies over plan to develop mini-Century City on Observatory site


The land is the site of a 100-year-old floodplain where two rivers converge below Observatory, and where the River Club Golf Course lies. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – As the provisional protection of the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) precinct is nearing its expiry date, civic organisations and First Nation paramount chiefs yesterday announced their combined application for the sites’ provincial heritage status.

The land is the site of a 100-year-old floodplain where two rivers converge below Observatory, and where the River Club Golf Course lies.

The site accommodates seasonal migrating birds and indigenous flora and fauna.

It is also the cremation ground of the early Quena, or Otentottu people.

Heritage Western Cape had previously resolved to provisionally protect the property, which faces an application for development from the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust for a R4 billion development.

The City, the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, the Department of Transport and Public Works and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning lodged appeals against the provisional protection.

Goringhaicona Khoena Council High Commissioner Tauriq Jenkins said: “We as the Goringhaicona do not accept this development as, in its current form, it is an act of spiritual and heritage genocide.

“We face an urgent and immediate threat, and to stop it, we will make our submission for provincial, national and international heritage status to preserve our joint heritage.

“The City signed an agreement using the 2003 TRUP framework, the Cape Conservation agreement, but is now in violation of this agreement by changing the District Plan and the Local Spatial Development Framework (LSDF) on TRUP for a single development.”

He said confusion also clouded the issue, as many processes were under way, including a recent public participation process on the draft Two Rivers LSDF, set to end yesterday, while the provisional protection order was set to expire early next year.

Kei !Korana Khoebaha leader Xnuseb Melvin Arendse said the long-term effects of development on the banks of the Liesbeeck River would be felt by generations to come, and at the cost of environmental and historic heritage.

Observatory Civic Association chairperson Leslie London said: “The proposed plan is to develop a dense, mixed-use commercial residential mini-Century City on a site of intense heritage and environmental importance.

“It is doing so in the face of an existing planning framework that zones the site as conservation open space. Yet, at the same time, we see the River Club’s plans, yet to be approved, appearing in the Local Spatial Development Plan for the Park developed by the City.”

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The draft LSDF is an update of the 2003 TRUP Framework as it aims to test the proposals of 16 years ago and make new proposals to address the current spatial realities.

“The District spatial development framework is still at the issues and opportunities identification stage, and does not have any proposals at this stage, contrary to the comment from the Observatory Civic Association.”

Cape Times