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Wednesday Nov 05, 2014

Cape Town approves taller buildings for Waterfront

Changes to the V&A Waterfront's Clock Tower precinct to allow for elevated buildings and rooftop public spaces has been approved by the City of Cape Town's mayoral committee, despite concerns that taller structures could overshadow the historic grain silo building.

Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said yesterday: "We propose that we approve it because the Waterfront is one of the biggest tourist attractions."

Cape Town also wanted to position itself as a city for big developments and investment, he said.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said the proposal "aligns completely with council policy". Various city directorates confirmed the overall bulk of the area remained unchanged and that the application was in line with the relevant spatial development plans.

Although a maximum height of 32m has been recommended for buildings in that area, building heights of 39m and 45m have been approved. The application does not require any changes to the existing use rights or conditions of approval for the Clock Tower precinct.

But the spatial planning, environment and land use management portfolio committee (Spelum) recommended that the application to exceed the height of buildings by 7m and 13m should be refused as this would alter the character of the Clock Tower precinct.

The Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is currently being developed in the Grain Silo complex as part of the V&A Waterfront's R1.5 billion investment in the precinct.

Spelum cautioned that the "landmark" status of the grain silo would be compromised if taller buildings were allowed.

Although there were only four objections, most of the complaints dealt with the impact any elevated buildings would have on the precinct and views.

"This mass of building in this position cannot be considered acceptable. The silos, having been the strong element in early designs, will be surrounded and become subservient to huge commercial buildings. I suppose 'iconic subservience' could become a popular style," noted one objector.

But the applicant argued that only buildings to the north of the silo buildings towards the traffic circle on South Arm Road would exceed 32m and that these would only account for 6 percent of the whole precinct. "Demand for more residential accommodation within the precinct has arisen with buildings of smaller, but taller footprints," said Neil Schwartz of Town Planning.

The taller buildings would create a "desired" pedestrian environment and the grain silo buildings would remain the dominant vertical element in front of Table Mountain when viewed from the water.

A heritage impact assessment dispelled concerns that increasing the height of two buildings in the precinct would compromise the integrity of the grain silo.

"The principle purpose of the proposal is to accommodate an environment of superior quality with diverse neighbours ranging from a working harbour to an internationally acclaimed museum," said Schwartz.

Instead of placing antennae and other unsightly service structures on the buildings' roofs, Schwartz proposed that occupants use the space for events or to grow gardens.

Cape Argus

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