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Monday Nov 12, 2012

Baboon Point property development turned down again

The latest proposal in a long-running attempt to develop parts of the proclaimed Provincial Heritage Site at Baboon Point, Elands Bay, on the West Coast has been turned down by the province's heritage authority, Heritage Western Cape.

Some of the erven within the boundaries of the site are privately-owned, and the owners and would-be developers, Midnight Storm, have been trying to get development approval since 2005.

But their latest proposal - for five houses (four in the southwestern part of the rocky promontory and one in the northeastern part) and for a new industrial building near the existing fishing factories - was rejected this week by a special sub-committee set up by Heritage Western Cape.

However, the committee acknowledged that the properties had "legitimate value" and said it would recommend that a compromise application could be negotiated.

No development could be permitted where the block of four houses had been proposed and no industrial building should be erected. But the industrial property should be rezoned to agricultural, allowing the possibility of a future building linked specifically to the heritage site such as an interpretive centre, committee chairman Steve Townsend explained.

Also, the committee did not have authority to rule on the proposed single dwelling as this was not within the boundaries of the heritage site. However, the erf on which it had been planned was partly within the heritage site and contained a major midden, Hailstone Midden, dating from the Later Stone Age.

It was here that a compromise might be possible and the heritage authority would be prepared to sacrifice "some significant archaeological value - [but] we can't say how much," Townsend said.

  • Baboon Point has been described as one of the jewels in South Africa's archaeological crown.

    Its rich archaeological history has produced Stone Age artefacts dating back 100 000 years that reflect the lifestyle of what archaeologists describe as the first truly modern human beings.

    These finds are considered to be of international significance in the documentation of human history.

    But the site is also of palaeontological significance (the era before humans evolved) and contains more modern heritage like World War II radar facilities and apartheid-era hostels that housed migrant labourers employed in the crayfishing industry.

    During a ceremony in September 2009 to mark the declaration of the heritage site, eminent UCT archaeologist Professor John Parkington described it as "a very, very important site, not just for the people of Elands Bay and of the Western Cape and of South Africa, but for the world".

    Cape Argus

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