News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Debacle over Victorian homestead development

Caitlin Ross

While a debate surrounding the refurbishment of a Victorian heritage site, Rocklands Villa, continues, none of the concerned parties are prepared to take responsibility for what has become a finger pointing exercise.

The homestead, built in 1929, has been under the spotlight this week following a complaint by an unnamed concerned party that the developer had “gutted” the building without authorization from the City of Cape Town and Heritage Western Cape.

This resulted in a cease work order given to the property owners, Oasis Group Holdings, on March 31.

As it is over 60 years old, the structure automatically qualifies as a heritage site, protected under Section 34 of the Heritage Resources Act and the City and Heritage Western Cape are in the process of meeting to decide how to proceed with the building situated in University Estate, Cape Town.

A city press release states the city and Heritage Western Cape are pushing for a conservation management plan, and say Oasis Group Holdings, who own the property, have torn the structure apart in contravention of the Act.

While the City has said it agreed to the demolition of certain parts of the building, Oasis went ahead with tearing down large portions it was not allowed to.

But Oasis maintains it complied with every condition it was presented with, has had regular meetings with the City, and has been laboring under the misapprehension that the City and Heritage Western Cape were communicating with one another. Moreover, said Sizwekazi Jekwa, Oasis group communications officer, the building was not billed as an official heritage site.

“Despite all the City’s shortcomings in dealing with heritage status of this building, the owners of the property adhered to the recommendations made by the City’s heritage department and included the house in all building plans, designs and engineering works for the project,” stated Jekwa.

But Ossie Gonsalves, district manager of the Table Bay District, Planning and Building Development Management Department for the City of Cape Town, said: “Regular meetings were held with certain officials around technical aspects of the building, but no discussions took place regarding the unauthorised demolition of the walls. Discussions did take place with regard to the need for the removal of the roof and of the trusses, but the developers would have been well aware of the fact that no action could be taken without clearance from both the City and Heritage Western Cape.”

The City and Heritage Western Cape have said they are intent on restoring the historic homestead to its former glory but Oasis hit back saying full restoration was always their intention and they had kept city officials informed every step of the way.

“The intention to restore the building is demonstrated in the site development plans that were approved by Heritage Western Cape in December 2008 and by the City of Cape Town in January 2009. Throughout this process the plans will indicate that the owner’s sole intention was to maintain the building as it was. No other plans existed or currently exist,” stated Jekwa.

Heritage Western Cape had not responded to questions requested by email by the time of going to press. – West Cape News

Tags: rocklands

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