Palm House safe – for now

No consultation, no development.

This was the message from Heritage Western Cape (HWC) when it chose to set aside its earlier decision to allow the erection of a five-storey block of flats on the historical Palm House property.

The Palm House homestead

The Palm House homestead, situated between Oxford Street and Tennant Road.

The new ruling is the result of an appeal by residents against HWC’s previous decision in favour of the development.

Residents had prepared several arguments for use in the appeal, which included:

  • the lack of a proper, robust consultation process, and
  • the fact that there were restrictions attached to the zoning of the property as GR4 (GR4 allows buildings of up to 25 m high).

In the end, HWC did not even enter into any of the other arguments but based its decision on the lack of consultation, said Barnett Herdien, spokesperson for the residents.

Read more: Palm House – is the planned high-rise legal?

What happens now?

HWC is normally just the first hurdle communities have to jump over when trying to stop a development.

HWC cannot make a final decision on a proposed development, only on the appropriateness of the development from a heritage point of view.

The Palm House developer can now apply to the City’s Land Use Management department, who will consider any HWC concerns, but is in a position to overrule them.

And even if LUM agrees with the HWC, mayor Patricia de Lille has the power to overturn their decision.

But as zoning limitations exist on Palm House (it seems its 2012 rezoning as GR4 was only to allow Palm House to operate as a guest house and not to build higher than two storeys or erect new dwellings), it is unlikely that LUM will approve the development.


Palm House is on the orange block, rezoned in 2012 to GR4. All the surrounding dwellings are zoned SR1 (single residentce). Generally GR4 zoning allows owners to build up to 25 metres (5 storeys), but in this specific case limitations on the rezoning specified that a) no new dwelling could be erected and b) no building was allowed to be higher than two storeys.

The residents may also apply to have the zoning changed back to SR (single residence).

There is a possibility that the owner of Palm House, Paul Scarlett, may apply to have the zoning limitations on the property lifted.

Scarlett, who lives in the United States, told the Constantiaberg Bulletin his plan was to use the funds generated by the development to renovate Palm House.

“These large houses are very difficult to maintain from an affordability point of view and developing the remaining land proteccts and preserves this magnificent building for future generations,” he said.



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