Observatory developments a cause for concern

TAURIQ HASSEN

Observatory residents, still smarting from a fight they lost to stop a nine-storey block of flats going up in their midst, are gearing up for yet another round of objections after discovering more developments are being planned for the area.

Tempers have still not cooled over The Paragon, a Rawson Properties’ development, which prompted residents to lodge their objections and even protest on site last year. However, the City approved the development, and the building is going up on the corner of Bowden and Main roads (“High-rise fails to please,” Tatler, Thursday March 5 2015).

Now, plans for two more similar developments have surfaced, further angering residents.

Shaun Matthews has lived in Observatory for nine years. He said: “It’s the manner in the way things are done which gets to the residents. It’s the manner in the way things are communicated which ends up driving the residents up the wall.”

He lives close to The Paragon and describes it as an “absolute monstrosity”.

“Developments always bring some kind of value to the area, but it depends on the nature of these developments. You can erect a building that could go on standing for years, benefiting everybody around it, but then you can also construct something that has absolutely no respect for the surrounding community and its residents,” he said, complaining that residents’ objections were not being taken seriously.

According to the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), a 30m-high, 10-storey building is planned for Trill Road, with the developer seeking a departure from the area’s mixed-use zoning.

The OCA’s Leslie London, said the association was objecting . He cited concerns about health, safety, heritage, traffic congestion and overburdened sewers.

“The community is simply disgusted that such rank profit-making could cloud professional planning decisions. There is absolutely no grounds for claiming a property owner’s property rights should enable them to erect monstrosities that will forever change the character of Observatory, not to mention deny patients’ rights to emergency medical care at Groote Schuur,” Mr London said.

The proposed Trill Road development lies in the flight path of helicopters delivering emergency cases to Groote Schuur Hospital. The plans include a 31.7m-high lift shaft.

“The height of the building will interfere with the helicopter’s approach and the effects of wind and air turbulence have not been factored in the application,” Mr London said.

“We do not think the City have exercised their minds appropriately in approving The Paragon, and we are deeply concerned that the City will allow developers to go ahead without taking the views of the Observatory community into consideration,” Mr London said.

Another resident Andrea Jacobus urged the community not to let the City bully them. “We have the right to say no to these types of things, because, at the end of the day, we live with the problems. Developers go home to their lavish and luxury homes, then they leave the problems behind,” she said.

Ms Jacobus was among the group that held a placard demonstration outside The Paragon site last year. She said she had been shocked when construction went ahead.

“The City allows the community to participate and have their say on what types of applications are introduced in the area. When the people have their say, it’s collated, assessed and a few minor adjustments are made, but the application ends up being approved anyway,” she said.

The second application the community became aware of is proposed for the corners of Main and Bowden roads in Observatory, another Rawson Properties building known as Madison Place.

Mr London said: “At no stage, was the OCA informed by Rawson or any City officials of the plans to develop Madison Place. On Monday December 21 2015 I was handed a flyer at a traffic intersection in the CBD advertising the Madison Place development.”

Their objections mirror those against the Trill Road development. Again, the OCA suggests the development may threaten the flight path of air ambulances. Concerns about heritage, traffic, parking , and more are included.

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, confirmed there was currently a land use management application for development of a 78-unit block of flats on a property along Trill Road and objections had been received.

“The objections are circulated to the applicant for response. This is then included in the report to the committee for a decision. In this specific case, the deadline for objections was January 18. The objections received during this period will be referred to the applicant for their input in due course,” he said.

Mr Van der Merwe said the City carefully considered all submitted applications within a “contextually specific manner” and that public participation was sought if and when required by applicable legislation.

“Applications are considered within the context of a number of development policies, including the Table Bay district plan, densification policy, tall buildings policy, urban design policy and the development management scheme, among others. These policies are designed to serve the residents of the city today, but also well into the future. They are also focused on redressing inequalities of the past by creating an integrated city space which is available to all,” he said.

On Wednesday January 27, the Tatler emailed questions to Samantha Claase, the branding and public relations coordinator for Rawson Properties’ head office. She said she would respond immediately, but when we didn’t hear from her, we followed up over the course of the week with phone calls, leaving messages that went unanswered, and SMSes. By the time this edition went to print, we had still not heard back from Ms Claase.