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Cape Town City Council

Petition against approval of amended plan for office block on warehouse
We, the undersigned, strongly urge the City authorities NOT TO APPROVE the newly-submitted amended plans (ref. 70175637) for the 1767 Martin Melck warehouse on the Lutheran street block, flanked by Strand, Bree and Waterkant Streets [applicable legislation Sections 2.3.1 and 3.1 of the Overlay Zones]. The amended proposal will have a highly negative impact on the significance of the Lutheran block and cannot be regarded as an improvement on the previous proposal, which was rejected by the City’s Appeals Committee in November 2013.
In our opinion the excessive bulk and overwhelming, ultra-modern appearance will despoil the most important remaining group of 18th and early 19th century buildings to survive in Cape Town. The aesthetic compromising of this unrivalled architectural set piece would be deplorable.
We note too that the application once again does not mention the history of the Lutheran Church, to which it is inextricably linked. This connection in itself adds greatly to its intrinsic heritage importance. The warehouse in question was the first to be built on this site, by Martin Melck, who qualified as Master Stone Mason before coming to South Africa. Melck gave it a spacious loft, suitable for holding services. A further historical aspect that has been entirely overlooked is that many a slave woman was baptised and confirmed in the Lutheran faith here, and could achieve manumission, so gaining her freedom from slavery and enabling her to marry a local soldier or burgher. Shortly after completing the first warehouse, Melck built a second one, which he donated to the Lutheran congregation for their future church in 1776. The high level of craftsmanship of both buildings is a testimony to the skills of the local labour that constructed it.
We view with disquiet the manoeuvre by which the amended building application was judged by Heritage Western Cape (HWC) to be “substantially in accordance “ with the 2010 application, although a number of committee members had made it clear that they were of the opinion that the 2010 approval had been “ a mistake”, largely because there had been very little PUBLIC PARTICIPATION. In the new application the fourth storey has been removed but the bulk has merely been relocated to the back of the remaining three storeys. The shape has therefore changed slightly, but not the bulk, and the aesthetic assault is in no way diminished.
This amended plan for the warehouse, ‘substantially in accordance with’ the 2011 plan, deserves to be refused like the previous one, because it destroys the character of this highly important example of Cape Town’s early architecture – the church itself, the Martin Melck House with its bas-reliefs by Anreith, the Lutheran Church, the Sexton’s House, now the Dutch embassy, and the warehouse - the only such street block remaining in Cape Town.

Marie-Lou Roux, on behalf of Habitat Council, CAPTRUST, and the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance.

Signed,

Graham Viney

This petition closed about 4 years ago

How this will help

To object against the new, somewhat amended proposal which the Gera Trust has submitted for the erection of an office block, the bulk of which is still vast, on the roof of the Martin Melck warehouse.

To object against the new, somewhat amended proposal which the Gera Trust has submitted for the erection of an office block, the bulk of which is still vast, on the roof of the Martin Melck warehouse.

We would appreciate you considering signing the petition and collecting more signatures, from people who are opposed to the application being approved.

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