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Thursday Dec 13, 2012

Cape Town seeks legal advice on controversial property development

Cape Town is taking legal advice on how to proceed with the province's directive to help draw up conditions for the development of the historic Lutheran Church precinct that it was opposed to.

Recently, Planning and Environment MEC Anton Bredell upheld an appeal by the developers after the city turned down their application for a development, designed by leading restoration architect Gawie Fagan, in the block bounded by Bree, Waterkant and Strand streets and Buitengracht.

This is a declared Urban Conservation Area that includes the 18th century Lutheran Church complex. The focus of the development is the historic Martin Melck warehouse running the length of the block along Bree Street adjacent to the church property, which has been substantially modified over years.

One of the conditions of approval set out in the appeal decision is that the province and the city jointly formulate the final conditions of approval for this development to proceed.

In his decision, Bredell said the developers - the Augoustides family - had sufficiently motivated the desirability of their proposal. He could not find adequate motivation in the documentation that the proposed development would be "detrimental to the protection and maintenance of the architectural, aesthetic and historical significance of the area in which the development is proposed".

"[However] the subject property forms an indisputable part of a defined and well-contained historical street block in a declared urban conservation area for which the municipality is the overall custodian, and their co-operation on an agreed development compact is therefore key to my decision."

The city's director for planning and building development management, Cheryl Walters, said it was clarifying with the province the status of Bredell's decision. "The city has... been advised of a court case regarding consent applications which affects this application. We are therefore gaining legal advice on this matter in order to determine the way forward."

Asked whether the city would call for public input into the setting of conditions, she said they were "investigating procedural aspects related to the appeal decision".

When the city's spatial planning, environment and land use management committee turned down the development proposal, it recommended that the SA Heritage Resources Agency get involved and said it wanted the agency to urgently reassess the complex's "potential Grade 1 significance".

Cape Argus

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