South Africa: City of Cape Town Told to Make New Plan for Woodstock Social Housing Site

Heritage approval has not been granted, contrary to City claims

  • The City of Cape Town last month announced heritage approval for social housing to be built on the site of the old Woodstock Hospital had been approved.
  • But this is not so: appeals, including an appeal by the City, have yet to be heard by the heritage authority.
  • At the heart of the matter is a plot of open land next to the hospital, which the City wants to build on, but the local residents association argues should be open public space.

The City of Cape Town has appealed against a Heritage Western Cape decision that open space next to the old Woodstock Hospital cannot be developed for social housing.

The City wants to develop the old Woodstock Hospital site, currently occupied by people in need of housing, and the adjacent piece of open land on Earl Street.

In a media statement on 31 July, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis stated the required heritage impact assessment (HIA) for the site, where 700 social housing units would be built, had been approved.

The old hospital has been renamed Cissie Gool House by occupiers under the banner of Reclaim the City, who have been occupying the building since 2017 to protest the lack of affordable housing in Cape Town.

Hill-Lewis stated the approval was “welcome progress towards our goal of faster affordable housing land release in well-located parts of the City”.

But Heritage Western Cape (HWC) says approval for the site is on hold until appeals have been heard in September. The appeals relate to the open land on Earl Street which used to belong to an orphanage and is now in the hands of the City.

HWC Chief Executive Officer Michael Janse van Rensburg said the overall development, which included the Earl Street site, was approved but with conditions, one of which was that the Earl Street be developed as open public space. Janse van Rensburg said the City needed to redesign its plans taking these conditions into account, and resubmit them to HWC for approval.

He said the City had appealed these conditions.

The Woodstock Residents Association has also appealed against the HIA on the grounds that the Earl Street site should be an open green space.

Both appeals are to be heard in September.

Ute Kuhlmann, WRA treasurer and heritage and planning subcommittee chair, said the residents’ association was not against social housing on the old Woodstock Hospital site. “On the contrary, we want the City to provide social housing apartment homes there.” But Kuhlmann said the Earl Street site should remain a public green space for existing and new residents.

In a petition to maintain the Earl Street site as green space, the association says City authorities have continuously ignored its input, and sites for social housing were identified without consultation.

In response to queries, a spokesperson for the City said there is a “false perception” it is taking away green spaces. “Opportunities for integrated public open spaces will be considered as part of the Local Spatial Development Framework for the area and no public open space of any nature is being removed by the current proposal.”


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