Wessels Road flats plan raises ire

An artists impression of the proposed Wentworth flats.

A five-storey block of flats could soon sprout above heritage-rich homes in a 5m-wide Kenilworth road, but not if residents have anything to do with it.

They’ve been fighting the plan for “The Wentworth”, a 28-unit block, since the City of Cape Town gave it the nod two years ago.

The saga started in 2016, when developers snapped up two properties in Wessels Road and got the City to approve departures, that led to 61 objections from residents. The objections were heard by the Municipal Planning Tribunal whose decision to let the development go ahead is now being appealed by residents.

Mary-Ann Kemp, speaking on behalf of the Wessels Road objectors, says the proposed development will be out of place for the area.

Its size, she said, would, among other things, cut out sunlight and intrude on residents’ privacy. The development could also generate noise and create traffic and parking problems.

According to Ms Kemp, Wessels Road is zoned for densification, and “is punctuated with a refrain that developments like this are fine examples of the City’s intent to densify”.

She said the garbage truck had to make a three-point turn to get out of the narrow road, so adding more cars was likely to cause problems.

“Then send an ambulance or fire truck down Wessels Road,” Ms Kemp added. “But the law says that a road from which a development like the Wentworth is accessed must be 9m wide.

“So, how can this development be considered, let alone approved? Well, apparently, if the developers submit an application to widen the road to 9m just in front of the development, rezone that piece and cede it to council, you get approval,” Ms Kemp said.

She said residents had tried to reach a compromise with the developers to no avail and they had also, at their own expense, sought advice from an architectural and town planning company; issued a report on the demolition of one of the houses, which has an asbestos roof; commissioned and paid for an independent heritage audit as the council had not yet done one in the area, and retained legal counsel.

Transport and urban development Mayco member, Brett Herron, said an appeal report had been submitted to the mayor’s advisory panel (MAP), which would make a recommendation to the appeal authority.

Appellants could ask to attend an interview with MAP, and the request could be granted “if deemed necessary”, Mr Herron said.

An “aggrieved party” could then take the matter on review to the High Court once the appeal authority had made a decision.

Municipal Planning Tribunal chairman, Dave Daniels, said the tribunal had approved part of the application and refused another in November last year.

The proposal, he said, was compatible with the surrounding land uses and would not have a significant impact on neighbouring properties when compared with existing rights.

The tribunal had found there was adequate on-site parking; adequate municipal services; the consolidation would not have a significant impact in terms of scale, design, building massing and impact on surrounding properties when compared to the existing rights; the proposal would have a positive socio-economic impact; the proposal would not have a heritage impact; the proposal was consistent with the Cape Town Spatial Development Framework and complied with the Southern District Plan; the proposal would facilitate contextually appropriate densification and was in accordance with the Densification Policy and the Transit Orientated Development Strategic Framework; the proposal supported the Economic Growth Strategy and was desirable, not impacting significantly on existing rights.

There was a refusal for one of the departures: “Granting the street building line departure would add excessive bulk to the front of the property and would negatively impact on the fine grain of the properties on the opposite side of Wessels Road,” Mr Daniels said.

On its website, the Harfield Village Association (HVA) says that should the block go ahead “the heritage value of Wessels Road will be greatly impacted”.

The HVA says it commissioned a heritage audit of Wessels and Derby roads, as well as 2nd Avenue, from Bell Road to Kenilworth Road, to support the residents’ and association’s argument that there would be an impact on heritage.

“This is in opposition to the council’s view, when approving the application, that there would be no impact on heritage. As part of the process of submitting the proposed heritage audit to Heritage Western Cape for inclusion in Cape Town’s local heritage register, and in terms of Section 30 of the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act 25 of 1999), the above-mentioned document is open for inspection and comment for a period 30 days,” the statement reads. It notes the closing date for comment is Tuesday April 10.

To view the document and proposal, visit www.iloveharfield.co.za