Palm House: Is the planned high-rise legal?

NOTE: THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE ABOUT PALM HOUSE AS NEW INFORMATION HAS BECOME AVAILABLE

Illustration of the proposed block of flats

Residents in Oxford Street and Tennant Road are up in arms about plans to turn the stately 1920s Palm House property into a five-storey apartment block (pictured above).

While Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has in principal approved the development, it seems they did so after having been provided with inadequate information.

As a result, residents are appealing the HWC decision. Their appeal will be heard on 21 September.

THE BACKGROUND

Palm House is a guest house owned since 2012 by The Scarlett Group, a company based in the United States.

The Palm House homestead

The Palm House homestead

The area around the guest house is zoned SR1, which refers to conventional one-family housing. However, Palm House itself has been zoned GR4, which means buildings of up to 25 m tall can be erected.

zoning

Last year, the Scarlett Group applied to erect a five-storey block of flats on the property. They presented three development options to the City of Cape Town, the third of which was conditionally accepted by HWC. Scroll to the bottom of this document to see the third option.

After the appeal HWC will make a recommendation and then the application will be considered by City’s Land Use Management (LUM), who may or may not take note of the HWC recommendation.

THE CONFUSION

  • When was Palm House rezoned to GR4? This is unclear, but it seems to have been rezoned in 2012 when the City introduced its new zoning scheme.
  • Were there restrictions attached to the rezoning? City planners have confirmed that the rezoning included limitations that no building higher than two storeys and no new dwellings could be erected. It seems the GR4 zoning was granted in order to permit Palm House to function as a guest house.
  • Why were these restrictions not considered by HWC? The heritage specialist employed by HWC to investigate the proposed development was never told about the restrictions, although he specifically inquired about rezoning and other limitations. The application to develop has been sitting with LUM since September last year, but neither they nor any other involved party seems to have picked up or been informed of the restrictions. There was also no referral to the restrictions in the documents provided by the developer.

the objections

  • Residents were not consulted about the development.
  • The rezoning limitations were ignored.
  • Other heritage properties in the area will be impaired.  For instance, the planned block is to be  erected between Palm House and a Herbert Baker property with a major landmark tower that could be obscured by the block.
  • While the Palm House residence itself will remain, some of the 100-year-old palm trees will be uprooted.
  • The proposed block will be an aesthetic eyesore and disturb the heritage fabric of the suburb.
  • Traffic and road safety will be severely compromised as the entrance to the new block of flats will be opposite Wynberg Boys Junior School and the development proposal includes 150 parking bays.
Aerial view and map of location of Palm house

Map and aerial view of Palm House. The orange block at the bottom is the Palm House property. To its left is Oxford Street and Wynberg Boys Junior, to its right is Tennant/Riverstone Road.

NOTE

Residents around Palm House were dismayed when they realised Palm House had been rezoned without their knowledge. Do you know how your street is zoned? Read our article on the different GR zones.

UPDATE

Read what happened at the appeal hearing on 21 September 20016

Thanks to the following residents for their input: Darron Araujo, Kristina Davidson, Lindy Dickson-Hall, Chris Forsdyke and Barnett Herdien

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