Fresh bid to tear down cultural centre

A developer wants to tear down the South African Centre for the Netherlands and Flanders (SACNAF) and put up a mixed-used building in its place.

Someone is making a second attempt to demolish a cultural centre in a part of Pinelands with heritage protection.

The first attempt was in 2015, but that proposal to tear down the South African Centre for the Netherlands and Flanders (SACNAF) and replace it with a four-story “business development” drew stiff opposition from residents, and it was dropped. Now they are trying again.

Town-planning firm @Planning is making the latest application, but for whom it’s not clear. The window for public comment opened on Friday August 18 and closes on Monday September 18.

Whoever is behind the application wants the Sacnaf site (erf 1958) rezoned from “community” to “local business”.

The Sacnaf building would be torn down and replaced with a four-storey building with a mix of businesses and residential units – presumably shops and flats – and 53 parking bays.

The Dutch Library Cape Town and Biblionef SA are the Sacnaf building’s tenants. The 20-year-old building is owned by the Willem de Zwijger Foundation, based in the Netherlands, and is also used as a conference venue as well as a meeting place for the likes of Toastmasters, the Indigenous Bulb Growers’ Association of South Africa, the Weavers’ Guild, a Dutch language school and various foundations and book clubs.

Ward 53 councillor Brian Watkyns said the original application in 2015 had been withdrawn before the City had made a decision, so whether residents’ objections or the heritage aspect had led to that was unclear.

“There has not been time to study the new plans, but I would assume there are some changes which will reduce the objections,” he said.

More than 1200 residents petitioned against the 2015 proposal to demolish the building, which is in a heritage zone. They argued at the time that it would invade their privacy and open the door to business creep in a residential area, bringing with it noise, litter and trucks at loading zones.

Sacnaf manager Eureka Barnard said there was a global trend of eroding cultural and heritage organisations, which was concerning for anyone who understood the importance of heritage and cultural activities in building bridges between communities.

Culture and heritage, she said, helped to unlock goodwill and greater interaction between people.

“This, in turn, unlocks economic possibilities, the linking of minds and innovation of ideas, all these strengthen societies in these stressful and sometimes troubling times.”

Sacnaf would be accommodated in the development if it went ahead, she said, but was now negotiating the scale and details of that.

It would be “a shame”, she said, if Sacnaf could not be “accommodated adequately” in the proposed development. “We are, however, positive that goodwill will prevail in this process.”

Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said public comments and objections, as well as those about heritage, would go into the report to the municipal planning tribunal.

“Any changes to the proposal may be at the discretion of the applicant,” she said.

“This application was circulated to the relevant City’s heritage and environmental management department. Whether any changes were made to the current proposal that differ from the proposal which surfaced in 2015 has not been established.”

The Department of Cultural Affairs, Sport and Heritage Western Cape (HWC) said it had not received an application for the site and so could not comment at this stage.

An @Planning employee said the woman handling the application for the Sacnaf site was on leave, but agreed to forward emailed questions to her so she could liaise with the owner of the property before responding, but Tatler did not get a response by deadline. Public comment can emailed to comments_objections.tablebay@capetown.gov.za