from Leslie London – As Obs residents know, the River Club has been the subject of an Appeal by the developers, the City, and two Provincial departments, who objected to the declaration by Heritage Western Cape (HWC) of a Provisional Protection Order covering the River Club. This order was issued in March 2018 and the appeal went to a Ministerial Appeal Tribunal which considered the matter over a period of October 2018 to January 2019 when it issued a directive. The directive instructed the HWC Council to convene a consultation with the appellants and allow them the opportunity to input to the process which they claimed they had denied. After such consultation, the matter will return to the Appeal Tribunal with all the information needed and following a process consistent with existing law (criteria in Section 10 of the National Heritage Resources Act and Section 3 of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.) Essentially, the Tribunal told HWC to go off and redo their process and then all parties should come back to the Tribunal which would then consider the matter with the knowledge that a proper process was followed.
The CEO of Heritage Western Cape then invited the OCA and other Interested and Affected Parties (IA&Ps) to a meeting at HWC offices on 11th May where he presented an idea for a ‘compromise’ which would, in his view, satisfy the need to memorialize the site, but allow the development to proceed. The details of such memorialization and what it meant for the heritage protections of the site, given the very dense development being proposed, were very vague and the IA&Ps left that meeting rather dismayed about whether HWC was capitulating to the pressure clearly being put on them.
The matter then came to an HWC Council meeting on 24th May where the ‘compromise’ solution was proposed by the CEO. Thankfully, the HWC Council was not satisfied that the ‘compromise’ (which included a mere 20m buffer between the buildings and the river in which a commemorative park and museum could be established) was sufficient to protect the substantial heritage value of the site. HWC Council rejection of the Compromise, therefore, means that the Protection order stands and that the appellants will need to go back to the Tribunal and argue their case for the Protection Order to be withdrawn. A great victory for democracy and fair process, but nearly snatched away by the voracious appetite for development at all costs unfolding in our area. We must remain alert as the political pressures for intense development on the entire TRUP precinct are substantial.
Note, while this HWC process has unfolded, the Developers have gone ahead with a rezoning application and the City advertised the rezoning at precisely the same time that the Tribunal was meeting for the first time. The OCA and many Obs residents submitted objections to the rezoning which will need to be considered at a Municipal Tribunal Meeting. We have not been informed when that MPT will convene but will keep Obs residents informed as soon as we hear further.