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Wednesday Dec 05, 2012

Province overrides Cape Town to approve controversial Lutheran Church scheme

The provincial government has overturned the city's refusal to allow a development on part of the historic Lutheran Church precinct in the heart of Cape Town.

The Lutheran Church and its surrounding block.

But the city will still get to write the conditions under which development can happen, and these will include some substantial changes from the original design by leading restoration architect Gawie Fagan.

The development is in the block bounded by Bree, Waterkant and Strand streets and Buitengracht. It is a declared Urban Conservation Area and includes the 18th-century Lutheran Church complex.

The focus of the development is the historic Martin Melck warehouse which runs the length of the block along Bree Street adjacent to the church property, but which has been substantially modified over years and which is currently described by its owners as "an eyesore".

The plans generated a heated controversy, with the approval by the provincial authority Heritage Western Cape being challenged by some big names in the cultural heritage community who pointed out, interalia, that it was the only 18th century streetscape still preserved in a single one block anywhere in South Africa.

The development application, by the well-known Augoustides family who own a sports store within the precinct, was refused unanimously by the city's Spatial Planning, Environment and Land Use Management committee (Spelum) last April.

However, the family's appeal was upheld by the provincial department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, after consideration by the province's Planning Advisory Board.

There are several conditions of approval, including that the city has 60 days to draw up a set of conditions for the development.

Conditions must include that the existing Lutheran Church height must, "at best", be not exceeded; that the planned lift shafts on the building edge adjacent to the church be set further inwards; and that the proposed parking area may be reduced.

Casey Augoustides said Fagan's design met the advisory board's findings that, although the property formed "an indisputable part of a defined and well-contained historical street block in a declared urban conservation area", it did not support a "no development" emphasis.

Fagan's design met this challenge, "which is why it has received such widespread positive support", he said.

"We are pleased to have bought and consolidated the six different pieces which make up the property and to be in a position to finally restore, protect and showcase what remains of the original warehouse. In its current condition, the property is an eyesore in need of attention." He said they hoped to begin work during the course of next year.

Cape Argus


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