The City of Cape Town's Council has approved the inclusion of the Bo-Kaap area in a heritage protection overlay zone.
Nestled at the foot of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap community with its narrow, cobbled streets has been overlooking the old Table Bay Harbour for nearly three centuries.
Apart from being the earliest established Muslim community in South Africa, the Bo-Kaap is also Cape Town’s oldest surviving residential neighbourhood with well-presented, coherent streetscapes.
“Council’s approval marks a pivotal moment for the Bo-Kaap. Today, the 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. Residents’ plight in getting the Bo-Kaap area included in an HPOZ has been ongoing for nearly four years.
“I personally want to thank all of those who have persevered, and I want to commend those who have participated in the recent public participation process for their commitment and constructive contributions. The Bo-Kaap is entering a new chapter where residents and landowners can actively promote it as a heritage tourist destination to the benefit of the local community, as well as the broader Cape Town,” said the City’s Executive Mayor Dan Plato.
The City conducted a comprehensive public participation process about the proposal to include the Bo-Kaap area in an HPOZ. The process commenced on 18 January 2019 and concluded on 22 February 2019. This included a sector hearing on 9 February 2019 where community-based organisations and the business sector made oral presentations. In the end, 2 298 comments were received of which 2 271 were in support of the proposal.
“Evidently, those who participated want the City to protect the Bo-Kaap’s long-term sustainability as a cultural asset. By including the Bo-Kaap in an HPOZ we will ensure that this uniqueness is harnessed and promoted for future generations and visitors,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment Marian Nieuwoudt.
The HPOZ for the Bo-Kaap extends to the Table Mountain National Park and includes the northern green verges to the north-west of Strand Street, and includes Buitengracht between the intersections with Carisbrook and Strand Street.
The HPOZ will have an impact on all of those who own property in the Bo-Kaap, in particular as it relates to new developments, restorations, and the maintenance and alteration of properties.
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 protect the streetscapes
- 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
The age and typology of the Bo-Kaap’s architecture are distinctive with the majority of properties being graded as conservation-worthy. Key among these are the bright coloured terrace houses that are iconic and characteristic of the Bo-Kaap. These houses, known as huurhuise, give visitors a glimpse of city living where boundary walls are mostly absent and neighbours and children are still mingling in the street.
“Now that the HPOZ has been approved, the community-oriented character of the Bo-Kaap must be protected. 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.
For some actions, owners do not need City approval. For example, normal gardening activities that don’t include the removal of mature trees or hedges and for minor maintenance such as repainting but this doesn’t include the painting of decorative features such as stone, metal, ceramic, and unpainted wood that form part of the historical building. Or, internal alterations that aren’t visible from the outside as long as these don’t affect the structural soundness of the building.
Over 600 privately owned properties in the Bo-Kaap will be affected by the HPOZ. The heritage value of these properties must be protected and enhanced when owners want to undertake alterations, restorations, and general maintenance.
“This may sound complicated and some property owners may feel overwhelmed, or even confused. But the City has heritage professionals at all of the spatial planning district offices who will assist and advise homeowners and this guidance is free of charge,” said Alderman Nieuwoudt.
The HPOZ does not affect ownership or the rental of property.
The HPOZ will also not prevent new development. However, the HPOZ sets additional development rules over and above the provisions of the base zoning for land units in the Bo-Kaap.
“Thus, 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. The HPOZ will also allow the City to impose conditions to the approval to ensure that the heritage value of the building or site is protected or enhanced. The City may also require the applicant to amend the plans,” said Nieuwoudt.
Importantly, applications that have been accepted by the City before the HPOZ becomes effective will be processed and considered in terms of the legislation at the time of acceptance.
“Meaning, a landowner who has already obtained additional development rights and still needs to use the land in accordance with those rights doesn’t need to apply for approval in terms of the HPOZ,” said Nieuwoudt.