Major developments threaten Observatory while OCA with residents hold the line.

There are numerous major developments that are threatening heritage in the area, which are being contested by the OCA on behalf the community affected. Below is a summary of the biggest threats. The OCA’s Large Development Group, Architecture and Heritage, and the TRUPA portfolios are working around the clock with the community in addressing these issues.

* 321 Main Road, cnr Milton Road where the affected community are facing a 8 and 9 storey block that was to be built hard up on the boundary of single storey Heritage Protected homes in Milton and Lytton Roads. Heritage Western Cape ruled against the demolition and indicated that the proposed building should be respectful of its context and should not be more than 6 storeys high. Some discussions have taken place but the ball is in the developer’s court to adapt the proposal to a satisfactory degree, before permission may be granted to demolish the existing buildings on the site over 60 years old.

* A new slightly revised proposal for the London, Wrensch and Nuttall Road site where developers propose a 5 storey new block, demolishing a part of the existing 100 year old homestead.
Neighbours have strongly objected noting that the site is also in the OBS HPOZ and all surrounding buildings are generally single storey or double storey and the area has noted heritage quality that should not be intruded on by an out of scale 5 storey block of flats. The proposed apartment is completely out of character for the local setting.

* The Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust submitted an application to rezone the River Club land, earlier this year. This 15 hectare site is part of the declared Two Rivers Urban Park and is not only a environmentally sensitive riverine flood plain but is also one of the most significant sites of Heritage in the Cape, tracing thousands of years of habitation by First People of the Cape, including the earliest colonialist intrusion back in 1510, and the First Frontier that saw the first Dutch settlement on the banks of the Liesbeek River totally unseat the established Khoi People from their sacred ancient lands that extended along and between the two rivers. LLPT have submitted plans to develop the floodplain, fill in some of the Liesbeek River, raise the levels of the flood plain by around 4 meters and build huge commercial and residential blocks in this sensitive area that is a declared open space park that is supposed to be preserved as such. HWC declared the need for a Provisional Protection of the site in order to prevent permanent negative impacts from uncontrolled development, and to allow for a true heritage grading of the site in a similar way to how the SAAO has been graded recently with National Monument grading.
We need intense support and care to make sure that this site is appropriately preserved, while also enabling appropriate development for affordable housing on suitable sites that respond to well conceived Planning guidelines for our central areas, along activity corridors and at intensity nodes. This can be done without destroying heritage and green open spaces.

There have been successes recently with regards a few developments. Below is a summary of some.

· The Municipal Planning Tribunal recently rejected PRASA application to put a Cell phone tower opposite the Observatory station. Reasons included untoward impact on the neighbouring heritage area and failure of PRASA to consider alternative sites for the tower.
· The Engen Garage is to be refurbished and a Woolworths outlet added. OCA supported the application.
· The proposed development between William Street and Liskeard Road has been revised from 8 and 7 storeys down to 6 and 5 storeys as a result of our objections and appeals against the departures they requested.

The OCA with the community of Observatory continues to hold the line in the face of these threats. To get involved and for more information contact the OCA at [email protected]

OCA Team.