Heritage blocks developers

The City wants to build thousands of flats on Observatorys Two Rivers Urban Park, but Heritage Western Cape is seeking public comment on whether the areas historical character should be protected..

Heritage authorities are calling for public comment on whether they should shield a sprawling green lung in Observatory, where the City wants to build thousands of cheap flats.

Heritage Western Cape has proposed invoking Section 29 of the National Heritage Resources Act to provisionally protect the Two Rivers Urban Park. It would prevent any changes being made to the park without prior written approval.

If that happens it could stop the City and developers from building more than 11000 social housing flats and 6000 flats in the park between the Liesbeeck and Black rivers.

That development plan, one of several proposals for the site, was revealed earlier this year PUT IN HEADLINE AND DATE and would turn the park into a mixed-use area for commercial and retail activities.

The park is one of Cape Town’s biggest green lungs and is home to sensitive ecological systems and habitats and historical buildings.

Heritage says the park has also come to be seen as being of great cultural and historical significance to “first nation peoples”.

Heritage Western Cape’s CEO, Mxolisi Dlamuka, said the park reflected various periods in the country’s history, from the early stone age to the first establishment of burgher farms along the edge of the Liesbeeck River.

Van Riebeeck’s diary, he said, mentions considerable herds of cattle close to the early fort, especially the herds of the Gorinhauqua and the Cochoqua during the summer months.

He said that in the absence of “physical archaeological evidence” in the Two Rivers Urban Park’s early history, a “general archaeology” of pastoralism, environmental factors and primary sources had been used to “synthesise” an understanding of the role the area had played in the early history of the Cape.

“Khoikhoi groups on the Cape Peninsula and Table Bay made a living on the resources that the peninsula had to offer, while there were more powerful groups to the north near Saldanha who came into Table Bay during the summer months. There was also the occasional maritime visitor to the Cape shores – Francisco de Almeida and his crew being one group, “ he said, referring to the Portuguese explorer, who was killed along with more than 60 of his men in a clash with the KhoiKhoi in 1510.

Two Rivers Urban Park Association chairman Hudson McComb has described the park as having a rich and complex heritage, dating back to pre-colonial times, and he supports moves by Heritage to protect it.

However, he said Heritage had indicated it had no wish to “ obstruct or delay all development”, and the association’s key concern was that “good governance” supporting sustainable development underpin plans for the park.

He said there was support for large-scale development “outside the park” so that it could be retained as “a sustainable and green park”.

Siphesihle Dube, the spokesman for Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant, said it would be premature for Heritage to take the Section 29 path because Two Rivers was already subject to a two-phased heritage impact assessment.

While Section 29 would allow Heritage to provisionally protect the park for up to years, it did not, in itself, prohibit development but made it a legal requirement for anyone wanting to make changes to a protected site to first get a permit from Heritage to do so, he said.