Bo-Kaap: City council approves plans to declare area a heritage site

Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)
Bo-Kaap residents protest against high-rise buildings (Christina Pitt, News24)

"[T]he City has officially committed to conserving the unique historical landscape and way of life in the Bo-Kaap by managing development in a sustainable and considered manner."

These were the words of City of Cape Town Mayor, Dan Plato, on Wednesday after the City's council approved the inclusion of the Bo-Kaap area in a heritage protection overlay zone (HPZO).

The HPOZ will come into effect once published in the Provincial Gazette.

The proposed HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap extends to the Table Mountain National Park and includes the northern green verges to the northwest of Strand Street as well as Buitengracht Street between the intersections with Carisbrook and Strand Street.

"Council's approval marks a pivotal moment for the Bo-Kaap," said Plato.

The Bo-Kaap area has been plagued by years of concerns, protests and court challenges over the area being sold to developers for the construction of high-rise buildings.

READ: Battle for Bo-Kaap: Heritage protection rules another step closer

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said in December that a public participation process would take place once the city council adopted a report on the matter.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced in December that the historic area be declared a heritage site, with the City of Cape Town expediting the process early this year.

A report, which had collated people's comments on the proposed declaration was finalised last week and was tabled to council on Thursday afternoon.

"Now that the HPOZ has been approved, the community-oriented character of the Bo-Kaap must be protected," commented mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt.

"Going forward, property owners in the Bo-Kaap are expected to conserve the area's historical character by doing alterations that are in keeping with the character and style of the building by retaining as many of the original and heritage characteristics as possible when altering or adding to a historical building; and by repurposing an old building instead of demolishing the structure," said Nieuwoudt.

A step in the right direction

The Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association has welcomed the move, saying while it will not take a "magic wand to solve all their problems, this is a step in the right direction".

In a statement, the organisation said: "We want to remind the mayor that the people of Bo-Kaap want to be actively involved in the working out of the precinct plan as part of the HPOZ for Bo-Kaap".

They thanked the mayor and council for adopting the report.

"Once published in the Provincial Gazette, development applications for properties within the Bo-Kaap will be assessed more critically, with additional focus on the impact that the development proposal will have on the heritage value of the building and site, and the area. This is to prevent inappropriate development and alterations within the Bo-Kaap," explained Nieuwoudt.

Some of the HPOZ objectives are as follows:

  • to conserve the Bo-Kaap heritage by encouraging owners to retain and rehabilitate the existing residential buildings;
  • to ensure that new developments and alterations to existing buildings complement the historic urban landscape and do not negatively impact the area's heritage;         
  • to promote and protect public open spaces and pedestrian movement along the roads and lanes; and       
  • to promote the social and cultural traditions and practices where people live outwardly, on the stoeps and sidewalks.

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