Developer’s plans for trees questioned

Trees at the Smithers Road property.

A Kenilworth woman is worried about plans to build townhouses across from her home, saying the development is out of scale for the area and threatens the trees that grace her neighbourhood.

Yolandi la Grange says she and other residents objected to the development in November last year but have not had any feedback.

She was surprised when she saw a notice at the Smithers Road property for partial demolition, sub-division and development, which only allowed objections based on heritage grounds by Tuesday July 10.

“The property in question has a Sir Herbert Baker home around which they are planning to build eight townhouses.

“My main concern is the abundance of trees, some of which are very old and huge, which I think they will remove completely as the proposed plan seems to leave no space for them.

“There is a lot of bird and animal life dependent on these trees,” she said.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, confirmed six objections had been received.

The issue of objections being based on “heritage grounds” was due to the current process being followed by Heritage Western Cape (HWC).

He said an application for a demolition permit had been submitted and the matter was expected be heard by the HWC Built Environment and Landscape Committee yesterday, Wednesday July 25.

Philip Nel, from Newlands Developments (Pty) Ltd, the developers, said they were applying for a Section 34 partial demolition permit to demolish the non-original wings at the rear of the manor house, which had been added after the original house was built. The rest of the manor house would be restored to its former glory.

“We were granted the permit by HWC, but the wording of the advertisement referred to alterations and additions, not ‘partial demolition’ .

“So whilst the objector knew it was an application for partial demolition, and referred to as much in his appeal, the appeal was upheld on a technicality,” he said.

Mr Nel said the development, which includes eight townhouses and the existing manor home, fitted the City’s densification plans.

“The property is in close proximity to General Residential 2 zoned properties, along with other properties that have applied for smaller, higher denser developments, within 1km of the site,” he said.

In their objection, one resident said the City could not justify densification of suburbs as environmentally sustainable “given long term prediction of lesser rainfall for the Western Cape”.

The objection further read: “Densification of suburbs especially through removal of very old trees should not be permitted especially during such a period of severe drought.

“The urban development and densification does not take into account the pressure such developments place on water use demand.”

Ms La Grange said she understood that development was needed, but the developers and architects should take the environment into account.

Another objection raised concerns about more traffic and noise.

“The proposed development will mean nine buildings instead of one, leading to a vast increase in the number of people living on the property and the number of cars being used.

“Our area’s big appeal is that it is a quiet and leafy residential suburb, which is why I moved here a year ago. Modern new developments also do not blend in with the existing look and scale of the area,” it said.

Mr Nel said the trees had been considered and looked at by tree experts. They had worked with the Tree Keepers organisation which had backed the tree-management plan.

Henk Egberink, from Tree Keepers, said they had been concerned about the impact the development would have on the trees at the site, and they had met with the developers to show them the value of the trees.

“A site walkabout established that certain trees on the site had a very high value in terms of potential longevity and species and, wherever possible, these trees should be conerved,” he said.

Mr Egberink said they had told the developers that some of the trees to be saved would need careful management and a tree-protection plan to avoid damage to roots and branches.

“Some trees of high significance and value to the landscape were in areas where development would take place, and it was suggested that a landscape plan should be prepared to show how new tree and shrub planting would compensate for the loss of existing trees and provide a new tree canopy going forward.

“We recommended that they appoint an arborist or tree expert to assess the existing trees and prepare a tree inventory to inform their decision making process and design.”

Ms La Grange said she could not see how most of the trees would be kept, given the size of the development.