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Wednesday Nov 20, 2013

Cape Town refuses alterations to Lutheran church complex

The City of Cape Town has again refused to sanction the proposed development of the historic Martin Melck warehouse that is part of the 18th century Lutheran Church complex in the heart of the city.

The planning and general appeals committee has turned down an appeal by the would-be developer against the earlier refusal of the city's spatial planning, environment and land-use management committee to grant special planning consent for the proposed development.

The warehouse is part of the complex in the block bounded by Bree, Waterkant and Strand streets and Buitengracht.

The developers, the Augoustides family, argued that the alterations would rationalise and improve the building.

The appeal was submitted by heritage expert Dr Stephen Townsend on behalf of the registered owner, Gera Investment Trust.

It followed an earlier approval on appeal by Western Cape planning MEC Anton Bredell that had been struck down in a review application in the Western Cape High Court. The court ruled Bredell was not a legally competent appeal authority.

The development has been supported by several high-profile architects and institutions.

Some 34 individuals or associations objected.

Initially, the national SA Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) appeared to have had a change of heart and to support the proposed development, when it recently agreed that the complex was only worthy of Grade 3 (municipal) heritage status and not Grade 1 (national) status as it had originally recommended.

But at the appeal hearing, objectors pointed out that Sahra had added an additional comment to its original letter to the city, stating: 'Sahra is, however, concerned about the potential impact of the proposed development on the grade 1, Provisionally Protected site, Erf 9245, the Dutch Embassy, the Lutheran Church and the Gold Museum buildings (the rest of the historic block). Appropriate measures should, therefore, be taken to limit this impact.'

Lawyer Nicholas Smith, for the Evangelical Lutheran Church, argued that this comment proved definitively that 'there is a detrimental impact on the protection and/or maintenance of the architectural, aesthetic and/or historical significance of the area in which the development is proposed' and the city therefore had no option but to turn down the appeal.

  • Most of the parties involved in the appeal about the proposed development of Martin Melck warehouse are waiting for the full documentation of the city's decision before commenting.

    They were told in a brief email on Monday that the appeal by the would-be developers against the city's initial refusal had been dismissed, and that they would be notified formally once the final minutes of the planning and general appeals committee were available.

    The only comment came from Marie-Lou Roux, of the Habitat Council, one of 34 groups and individuals that had opposed the appeal. She said they were 'deeply appreciative' of the city's decision to turn down the development. 

    Cape Argus

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