City approves block of flats despite concerns

JOHN HARVEY

A decision by the City of Cape Town to approve a housing development in Claremont has angered residents, who claim due processes and objections were ignored.

More than 30 residents fromthe Crescent/Claremont Road community, as well as the Harfield Pine Association, had objected to the demolition of two houses on the corner of Crescent Road to make way for a block of flats (“Residents take on proposed development,” Tatler, March 31 2016).

However, now that the application by Sibane Planning and Development has been approved, they fear their grievances were overlooked.

But Sibane director Louise Seaward says the City assessed the application and considered all objections before giving it the green light.

Resident Paul Pedersen said residents had been at the council meeting where the development was approved, and found “grievous” concern in the way it was handled.

“None of the facts we put forward were even covered, with regards to the municipal building regulations and setbacks requested, as well as the traffic impact study and many other issues which we, as a community, raised.

“The most worrying fact was that the town planner was clearly unaware of our case specifics and was responding to the council members in non-factual terms and misrepresenting what the true situation is. There was supposed to be a site visit by all of the council members, including the municipal town planner, in order to get a first-hand understanding of the environment and impacts we had raised.”

Mr Pedersen said he had personally facilitated a visit by councillor Ian Iversen, but none of the other members or town planners were present.

Craig Meacham believed his fellow residents were aggrieved for a number of reasons.

“The council gave the go-ahead and approved the departures without properly taking into consideration the narrowness of Crescent Road, where entry and exit points to the developed flat will be. The development also does not provide adequate parking, and there are currently more than 20 departures from building regulations in the proposed development.

“We feel disappointed and aggrieved that a comprehensive due diligence process was not followed by council in approving this development, and therefore our decision, as a community, is to appeal. It must be said that we are pro-development in the area, but that it must be done as per building regulations.”

He said a “win” for the community would be a development which was one storey lower, where there would be suitable development bulk on the property and catered parking would be realistic.

“We feel, in light of this development proposal, that profit is the exclusive motive of the developer, and does not take into account a building construction that would be ideally suited to the area and its surrounds.”

Resident Debre Barrett fears that the development could cause traffic problems.

“The exit from the basement of this new building is on a very narrow road, with no pavements, that sees a lot of traffic to and from Greenfields school. The block of flats on the other side of the road used to have a parking exit directly opposite where the new proposed parking exit will be. They closed that exit about 10 years ago due to the number of accidents that happened there.

“We are concerned that the council is not taking this into account, and that we are about to see that corner once again becoming the scene of road accidents. None of this was taken into account by the council. They only considered whether the amount of parking available inside the building complied with regulations. They did not consider what effect this building might have on the traffic in the surrounding street.”

Vilma Maritz agreed that traffic would present a huge challenge.

“Opposite the road, another development is taking place: One on Scott, which will offer 13 flats .That building will be completed in March 2017. There was already a traffic congestion because of it.

“Did no one realise that these two developments will bring another 50 cars onto the roads around here?” said Ms Maritz.

She said when it came to a discussion on the servitude she has dused daily for the past 25 years, the city engineer was sure that it “would not be a problem”.

“In a phone conversation with him after the meeting, he expressed his surprise that it was in use. He was not in the least bothered about it. Well, I wonder how it is going to work: a great big hole alongside the servitude. How long will that last? I certainly need to use my car every day and don’t see why I should be inconvenienced by the plans of developers. He did say that we could appeal, for what that is worth. While they have the right to develop their site, this particular building is totally out of keeping with what is appropriate for the area.”

Judy Bell also objected to the development on several grounds, including traffic concerns and that it was too big for the property size allocated.

Ms Seaward said the objectors do not seem to understand that a block of flats was permitted as of right on the property, and the scheme complied with all regulations.

“Adequate parking has been provided on the property and the scheme cannot be refused based on this invalid objection,” she said.

Mr Iversen had not responded to queries by printing time.