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Tuesday Nov 19, 2013

Bo-Kaap properties need heritage protection

The City of Cape Town is looking at bumping the Bo-Kaap's Schotsche Kloof area to the top of the waiting list for heritage protection, amid fears from the residents that its unique character is being threatened by developers and property buyers.

Ismael Hartley serves on the Schotsche Kloof Residents and Ratepayers' Association, which has called for greater heritage protection..

Many of the older residents hope this will help preserve the cultural history of what has been the traditional home of Cape Town's Muslim community since the 18th century.

Properties in the Bo-Kaap have become highly sought-after, with houses selling for no less than R2 million. With 'renewed' commercial interest in this area, the residents have turned to the council to protect its cultural integrity. WITH developers showing keen interest in the Bo-Kaap's historic Schotsche Kloof area, residents have made a strong appeal to the City of Cape Town to preserve its cultural heritage.

Ward councillor Dave Byrant has heeded the call and submitted an urgent motion to Sub-council 16, which includes the Bo-Kaap and city centre, calling for Schotsche Kloof to be declared an urban conservation area. This would force developers and property owners to preserve the area's trademark architectural style, and they would have to meet stringent approval conditions.

'This unique character also drives economic investment and tourism flows through the area with film shoots and local walking tours,' said Bryant.

Ismael Hartley, pictured, who has lived in Wale Street for more than 60 years, said he was accustomed to finding film crews or tourists on his verandah. 'There is no consultation, they just come here.'
Hartley said it was also common for four or five buses to line the narrow street, as tourists jostled to get shots of the brightly coloured houses.

The free-for-all extended to advertisements, and he often saw his house in business ads or flyers without having being asked for his consent. But Hartley is pragmatic about the changing face of the Bo- Kaap, and the demand for its property.

'If people want to come (and buy here), let them, as long as their intention is to be part of the community.' Hartley is part of the Schotsche Kloof Residents and Ratepayers' Association, which has been vocal in its call for greater heritage protection from the council.

The area, home to one of the oldest communities in the Cape, has become a sought-after residential and commercial address because of its proximity to the city centre and spectacular views. Somaya Salie, of Legacy Estates specialising in the Bo-Kaap, said the buyers were split 50- 50 between foreigners and locals.

The area was no longer a cheap option. 'It is difficult to find anything under R2 million here now,' she said.

Byrant said that by declaring Schotsche Kloof an urban conservation area, the city could protect the integrity of this historical area. BoKaap is home to South Africa's first mosque and there are 11 others.

He said there were 34 urban conservation areas in the city, while another 17 had been proposed. The sub- council felt Schotsche Kloof should to be bumped up the list for consideration because of the renewed interest from developers.

If urban conservation status is granted, applicants will have to meet strict conditions when applying to the city to make alterations to buildings. These could include retaining the area's cobbled surfaces and tiled verandahs, protecting the historical integrity of walls and roof features and preventing third-storey additions.

Bryant said that as the calls for protection had come from residents, the motion stipulated that there should be 'input and participation from the local community, ratepayers, civic and other relevant associations'.

Cape Argus


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