‘No’ to demolition

2018-03-20 06:01

A local heritage preservation body has spoken out against an application to demolish a Bantry Bay property.

The Simon van der Stel Foundation, which was founded in 1959 and has been actively involved over the years in preserving old buildings, has opposed an application to demolish a building, known as Chequers, on Kloof Road.

The free-standing double-storey Edwardian villa with Arts and Crafts details was designed by John Lyon for the landowner at that time, Samuel Ramsay, who bought the land in 1907, the association says in their objections.

According to a heritage report by a heritage specialist, filed by Heritage Western Cape (HWC), a previous application was lodged with HWC in January 2015 and a permit authorising demolition was issued on 11 March 2015, valid for three years.

The building is protected by the National Heritage Resources Act as it is older than 60 years, the report confirms, although alterations were carried out around 1992.

“Given the substantial changes made to the original character of the building, it is considered to warrant a grading of 3C,” the report finds. “As such it could warrant conservation in an area of consistent fabric. As an isolated building within a context of no special heritage character, the building would not appear to warrant any form of formal protection in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act.”

The report recommends the demolition, stating: “The qualities of the building, together with the scattered remains of potentially conservation-worthy buildings in the environs, are not considered such as to warrant refusal of the application­.”

The foundation has opposed the application, saying the wider context of the Atlantic Seaboard must be taken into account when evaluating applications of this nature, as the area has “suffered a tremendous loss of heritage buildings”.

“In fact, the number of historical buildings is still decreasing. Consequently, the very few historic buildings that remain must be viewed against this background. This 1907 dwelling still retains its historic exterior, the original floor plan is almost intact, lots of its Arts and Crafts detailing is still present and the original plans have been preserved. All of this, in our mind, constitutes a very conservation-worthy survivor in the context of this neighbourhood.”

The building is also a historical landmark, as it is “one of the few remaining historic free-standing villas that developed along Kloof Road”; it is of “cultural significance” and is one of the oldest extant buildings in this part of the City, the foundation claims.

The foundation believes this historic building is a rare heritage resource in this neighbourhood and must be retained.

“These old buildings embody history. By preserving them we retain continuity of the physical environment. As this area has suffered tremendous heritage losses and only a few heritage buildings remain, these surviving heritage buildings are the only markers still contributing to a sense of place, a sense of historic development. 

“It is this generation’s duty to retain these survivors as they play a tremendously important role in giving our urban environments a layered and friendly look, preventing the latter from becoming sterile and uninspired.” 

The foundation has also raised concerns over what will replace the building. “There is the fear of what will replace this historic building if it is not preserved. It is the opinion of the Simon van der Stel Foundation to rather save what is old and beautiful because we know what will replace it will probably not be better. In fact, many of the recent buildings being constructed in this neighbourhood are shoddy, over-bulked, utilitarian cubes that display a global look, totally inappropriate to its locality. This results in dull, monotonous and sterile urban landscapes that are to be found all over the world in suburbia. Cape Town being a tourist destination situated in a breathtakingly beautiful peninsula can try harder to retain its unique layered history.”

Heritage Western Cape had not commented at the time of going to print.

V Comments or objections on heritage grounds may be submitted to info@publicgate.co.za until Monday 2 April.

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