Hope Held Firm as the ‘Provisional Protection’ on the Heritage of River Club site was retained by HWC Council!

from: Marc Turok, Deputy Chair of TRUPA

Two Rivers Urban Park remains under general future development threat!   

There was some relief on Friday 24 May as the Council of Heritage Western Cape announced that it was committed to holding firm to retain the gazetted order on the Provisional Protection of the River Club Site. Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT), had  Appealed the HWC ruling and had been supported by three other major parties; the City of Cape Town and two Provincial departments against the HWC’s decision! 

A Ministerial Appeals Tribunal took the case on, called for comments and held intense oral hearings where the Appellants fiercely called for the decision to be removed, represented also by top legal teams. Their arguments were powerfully thrust onto the Tribunal, under great pressure. TRUPA, various Civics and huge multiple presences of First Nations representatives defended the ruling to Provisionally Protect the site so Heritage can be protected by giving the site a grading based on serious research of up to two years.

Those in opposition to out of control development continue to put up a strong resistance against the PP being overturned while the four highly funded Appellants tried to persuade a nullification of that! The Intensity of the momentous struggle was electric, over a number of days and the result was an anti-climax, where instead of making a ruling, the Tribunal in their wisdom,  diluted it by issuing a “directive” for parties to engage further with HWC to find some revised positions but clearly some facts cannot be diluted! The last encounter was on Friday 24 May, where after yet another even more intense standoff, between even more determined opposing parties, HWC Council (its senior body) took a decision! To hold the decision that had been its Gazetted position, to protect the River Clubland, (so it retained its commitment to the assessment of the Heritage (environmental and Historical) of the site, and to retain its authority on the site, so it can be appropriately researched and GRADED. to give a permanent basis for any further decisions and processes, that will also affect how the HIA (Heritage Impact Assessment) and EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) on River Club will need to be viewed as that part of the process progresses still further.

The Ministerial Appeals Tribunal will need to reconvene to respond to this HWC decision not to capitulate! The Tribunal will probably need to engage with all parties, yet again to make a final ruling on the provisional protection now that it is endorsed by HWC’s Council. HWC had expressed an intention to protect the whole of TRUP in the future. We expect the River Club ‘Rezoning application’ to make its way to MPT (Municipal Planning Tribunal once there is some predictable feel to the ‘lie’ of the land. Next will probably be opportunities to respond to the Final HIA on the River Club site and the ‘MAD hectic’ proposed development all inside our park, on the flood plain that is essentially a unique World Heritage Site!

We will no doubt also expect ever-higher intensity attempts to take stronger positions to defend the Final Frontier that represents the full circle of the First Frontier by this time the People of the Cape, 

The ancient home of the Khoena, all who live in ‘Khoenaku (Southern Cape/ Mzansi ) know the view from T R U Park, towards Khu!gais (the name for our Table Mountain National Park)

Not much else is predictable other than we stand together in defense of our heritage, our park, our rivers, our environment, and the determined spirit and will of our people never to lose hope, in the Cape of Good Hope!

We continue to chart our chosen paths and contribute our energy for the ‘Common Good’ focused on broader participation in really creative and meaningful visioning with real productive Co-Design that is inclusive and respectful. It must give priority to our Planet and our People with all  I&AP’s (Interested and affected parties) being heard in productive participation that is what makes democracy worth striving for! Together we will aim to achieve a worthy revised District Plan and Local Plan that is good for our wonderful City.

Some further background on Two Rivers Urban Park.. 

T R U Park was declared a formal park in 2003 with the formation of TRUPA after years on consultations with I&AP’s including City and Province etc.

The Park is being challenged by developers submitting applications to the City and Province to be given permission to build large developments inside the PARK that is not zoned for that kind of development! Nevertheless the City and Province recognised that there may be some opportunity for some development (where appropriate) and they set in motion a public consultation process in 2015 and it attracted substantial interest, with high level of response that  established clearly that while I&AP’s are not opposed to sustainable forms of development in specific locations around some perimeter areas of  the park, it was made very clear, almost unanimously, that the green open space of the park, the riverine banks and flood plains inside of TRUP are NO GO for developers to intrude into the park and it was also noted that there are highly sensitive precincts that need to be treated very carefully, respecting the values and character each has to be preserved, both as part of and contributing to the PARK and in recognizing the highly significant Heritage that the Park represents! It is a park and some minor exceptions are noted where essential needs to make the park function well may need to be accommodated, like was the case inside of the Kirstenbosch Gardens. 

A carefully worded Draft Manifesto and the response to various Scenarios were evaluated to asses how they score according to the Manifesto values and much insight was gathered by an appointed Design Team and made ready for a Co-Design Process that was then put on hold with no reasonable reason and new officials suddenly fired that Design Team and very strange new attitudes of shutting down the established vision of the Park’s Contextual Framework and the I&AP / Stakeholder Process  got nowhere further since 2017

A very interesting Baseline Heritage Report was produced on TRUP and then extended to a Supplementary Report within the realm of Heritage Western Cape’s “IACom” who supervised that process and who also then received applications from The Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust who it transpired had bought the ‘River Club’ Property (which is the confluence flood plain between the Liesbeek River and Black River, an intensely significant heritage site and environmentally sensitive natural open space in the north of TRUP that is zoned Open Space, for Conservation of the Environment. To our horror, this confluence green lung site was secretly sold to developers by a subsidiary or Transnet under very questionable circumstances and this in itself is conflicted and under the spotlight!

There is no realistic expectation that this land can be developed and can never be, nevertheless, supported by various City and Provincial Departments, apparently, being assisted by the support and commitment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, wishing to transform this site of early Cape historical heritage, into a development opportunity that substitutes this open space green lung protected environment into a massive overdeveloped intruded upon business opportunity for developers to make 9% profit on Multi-Billion Rand proposed to be invested transforming it all into a kind of ‘Canal Walk’ while offering compensation to convert a disrupted canal into a river while disrupting the real Liesbeek River and adding 3 to 4 meters of fill over near 60 % of the flood plain. 

There has been an overwhelmingly strong response to the LLPT (owners of River Club) on-off and on again applications to change the zoning of the sensitive site that is an essential part of TRUP (Currently zoned public open space for environmental conservation with some minor consent use for the converted clubhouse and golf with clear limits and conditions that do not entitle any additional rights!) HWC decided to Gazette a Section 29 Provisional Protection order in response to the THREAT to heritage to the heritage site (that if the rezoning were approved by the City would be very difficult to turn around!) 

TRUPA and many other I&AP’s including OBS Civic Association, multiple First Nations Peoples groups and many more including SAAO / NRF objected to the rezoning application and also responded to many other documents being submitted which while claiming impartial content, clearly show a bias in favor of the developer who has employed them! HWC had stated its intent not only to protect River Club but also to the entire T R U Park within proposed borders. TRUPA supported that as the Heritage Grading of the TRUP needs to be appropriate to its unique Heritage and environmental qualities! We objected to the content and conclusions of the HIA (Heritage Impact Assessment) prepared to be a baseline to assess the LLPT application inside of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Section 38  process that is underway under the authority of the DEA&DP (Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Who has also appealed the decision to ‘provisionally protect’ the River Club part of the Park so it can first be GRADED (if it should be preserved as a National or Provincial Heritage Site or possibly a World Heritage Site?) We note that SAAO (The SA Astronomical Observatory) was recently declared a National Heritage site and they did not even consider its massive heritage significance as an ancestral First Peoples sacred site, on the crest of the hill and throughout the place we now call

T R U Park.