Formal objection to alterations

A McNally and M Lloyd, Meerendal, Pinelands

Pinelands is the first Garden City established in South Africa by Garden Cities which commenced building in 1922.

Garden Cities pioneered the development of grouped housing. The first of these projects was Meerendal which was built in 1965. Meerendal consists of nine houses designed to have a unique character common to each other.

All nine houses have a wall with a chimney stack facing outwards towards either Nightingale Way, Princess Path or The Crescent. All nine of them had fencing on to the street or access road/path. The complex or housing scheme has been renowned for its charm and street appeal. It was featured as their flagship development on the cover of Fifty Years of Housing – the Story of Garden Cities, published by Garden Cities in January 1973.

On November 4 2015 Meerendal was designated as falling under the Heritage Protection Overlay Zoning (HPOZ) in terms of the City of Cape Town Development Management Scheme. According to the HPOZ website we note that “physical alterations are limited to external changes or other changes that could affect the way a place appears”. We also note that “affected parties must be notified of an application in terms of normal City policy which has minimum advertising requirements” and also that “the application must take into account the effect such activity may have on the significance of the heritage place or heritage area concerned”. Its purpose is to provide a mechanism for the protection of heritage places through additional development rules.

According to my own title deeds and that of my neighbours in nos 1, 2 and 4 Meerendal, it is clearly stipulated in clause B7 (a) no building, or structure, nor any portion thereof, except boundary walls and fences shall be erected nearer than 7.87metres to the street line which forms a boundary of this erf, nor within 4.72 metres of other boundary, common to any adjoining erf. Nothing leads us to believe that the title deeds for No 5 would be any different.

What has happened is that No 5 has built onto the original building which extends to 5.2 metres from Nightingale Way. This addition has severely compromised the street-scape and the entire heritage “look” of Meerendal, as the chimney stack wall is now enclosed instead of facing unimpeded onto the street, as do all other eight Meerendal homes.

In addition the roof to the addition is flat with visible sheeting. This is also contrary to all other Meerendal homes which have pitched and tiled roofs facing onto the street. We are of the opinion that council land might also have been built upon as the fencing from numbers 2 and 3 Meerendal are 5.7metres from the street.

As this property is only bounded by one street (Nightingale Way) there is no way this clause should have been interpreted differently. Princess Path, which forms the other side of their property, is a gravel path only giving access to the properties bordering it and as such forms no thoroughfare. There are actually bollards blocking off access to numbers 6,7 and 8 Meerendal.

A wall has also been built up to the same extent as the addition whereas all other eight Meerendal homes have fencing. We believe there are no approved plans for this boundary wall.

Due process was not followed by the City. The plans should have been approved by Heritage Western Cape and submitted to the Pinelands Heritage Advisory Committee and the Pinelands Ratepayers’ Association for approval as stakeholders in terms of the City’s notification policy. The other owners in the Meerendal housing scheme should also have been notified and consulted.

This procedure was not followed. Heritage Western Cape have not seen or approved the plans. As at March 21 this year (seven weeks after work commenced) the Pinelands Heritage Advisory Committee and the Pinelands Ratepayers’ Association had not seen the plans or been given an opportunity to comment.

Apart from new owners in No 4 Meerendal (they had been there about two months when approached by No 5 owners) no other Meerendal owners were notified or consulted.

Two cease works orders were served on the builder at the site as the owners have moved out during these alterations: one was served on February 2 and then again in the week commencing February 19 (at the request of the Pinelands Heritage committee). The Law Enforcement vehicle was seen at No 5. Apart from one day, building recommenced on February 23. We have photographic proof and dates to show the builders working and the wet cement.

Unknown to us at the time, plans had been approved the day before by the City on February 22 following an initial approval on November 28 2017.

We can only conclude that the City has not applied due diligence to their own laid-down procedures and has been grossly negligent in many areas. Title deeds have not been adhered to, procedures have not been adhered to, our rights have been ignored and the architecture of the housing scheme has been severely compromised.

Further, when we, as concerned Meerendal owners, alerted the Pinelands Ratepayers’ Association in early February, only the foundations were being dug and the concrete slab had not been laid. At this stage the building should have been stopped and the owners advised that due process had not been followed. We discovered that the Pinelands Heritage Advisory Committee members were already attempting to arrest proceedings and the first cease works order was served.

Contrary to their efforts, building proceeded with haste.

We are requesting a formal plan from yourselves on how the City intends to remedy this unfortunate situation which has debased our street-appeal, our heritage architecture and possibly the future market values of our homes. We wish to place on record that we would never have approved these plans. We are expecting you to have the building alteration onto Nightingale Way at No 5 demolished or further alterations made to conform to the original design. It would be reasonable to assume that the City bear any additional cost involved.

Priya Reddy, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, responds:

Land use applications for building line departures from the parameters set out in the Development Management Scheme, relaxation of building line restrictions set out in the title deed and consent to permit building work within a heritage protection overlay zone (HPOZ) area were submitted by the owner to the City’s Development Management Department, together with two letters of no objection from abutting property owners, on November 2017. These applications were approved by the City on November 28 2017.

Given that the said property is located in an HPOZ, the City’s Environmental Management Department was consulted. The department subsequently supported the proposals which, among others, clearly indicated a pitched roof in keeping with the existing building. No permit was required from Heritage Western Cape as the National Heritage Resources Act was not triggered or applicable in this case.

Given that the proposed additions that were reflected on the Site Development Plan that was submitted with the land use applications did not require a permit from Heritage Western Cape, the extent and impact of the proposed additions were determined not to impact the wider community. As such, it was deemed that comment from the Pinelands Heritage Advisory Committee and the Pinelands Ratepayers’ Association was not required.

The City wants to note, however, that the Site Development Plan that was submitted and approved, together with the land use applications, had a pitched roof that is in keeping with the architecture of the immediate environs.

On December 5 2017, the applicant submitted building plans which were referred back for technical amendments. It was at this stage, and during the processes of complying with the technical issues, that a revised building plan was submitted in January 2018. The revised building plan was approved. The City only recently became aware that the new building plans differed from those that were approved together with the Site Development Plan on November 28 2017.

We are currently investigating the circumstances regarding the subsequent approval of the building plan that is different from the Site Development Plan, i.e. the plan that showed a pitched roof and was deemed to be in keeping with the built form of the immediate environs and was also supported by our Environmental Management Department.