Three-storey block of flats for historic Sayers’ Lane

The structure on Erf 4995 on the corner of Palace Hill and Waterfall roads in Simon’s Town.

Two years after the discovery of human remains halted the construction of a three-storey block of flats on the historic plot known as Sayers’ Lane, building activities have resumed.

And while the small structure on the plot does not appear to match anything on the current approved plans, the City of Cape Town has confirmed that the block of flats is going ahead.

The 1953m² vacant plot on the corner of Palace Hill and Waterfall roads in Simon’s Town made news in 2019 when the remains of 164 sailors and crew from 18th-century Dutch East India Company cargo ships were discovered (“Let sleeping bones lie,” Echo, September 5, 2019).

At the time, Heritage Western Cape (HWC) issued a permit for the remains to be removed by an archaeological team appointed by the then owner and developer, Michael Bester, from Regent Blue Sayers’ Lane.

In September last year, the property was listed on Property24 for auction with a reserve price of R5 million which included approved building plans for a development of 25 flats with 37 parking bays, of which 16 are in a semi-basement, and 25 storerooms (“Uncertain future for Sayers’ Lane,” Echo, October 1, 2020).

While the property was not sold then, it has since changed hands and is now the property of the Terraces Simon’s Town (Pty) Ltd.

While most residents near the plot were not opposed to development there, they were unhappy with the design of the three-storey block of flats and naming it Sayers’ Lane, which they said represented nothing of the heritage of Simon’s Town and the people who lived there.

The former chairman of the Simon’s Town Historical Society, David Erickson, said the position of the building site was very close to Palace Hill Road and it was clear that it encroached upon the road reserve.

He said there had been considerable debate, for several years, between the Simon’s Town Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) and the City of Cape Town, about the dangerous nature of the junction at the point where Palace Hill Road joined Waterfall Road.

He said fast-moving naval traffic used the junction to enter and exit the naval barracks and, at the same time, there was significant traffic from St George’s Street using Waterfall Road to go northwards on Palace Hill Road, he said.

The AAC, he said, argued that the sight line from Waterfall Road northwards to Palace Hill Road was inadequate and the City’s roads department, he said, had eventually agreed with the committee after a visit.

The agreement was that the developer of the property would be advised that this corner should be kept clear of any buildings in order to improve the sight line and visibility of oncoming traffic.

However, he said, it seemed like the advice had been ignored.

He had reviewed the existing plans of the block of flats and could find nothing resembling the foundation outline on the corner, he said.

It was a great shame that the new owners of the property were continuing with the “ill-conceived and tawdry” design they had inherited from the previous owner, he said.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt said the building plans had been approved in 2019 and had been valid till last month. She said a City building inspector had checked the property in July and had found that a land surveyor had set out the building and there was no encroachment into any building line.

“No deviations from the approved building plans were found,” she said.

The Terraces Simon’s Town director Barry Fletcher confirmed that the structure on the property was part of the construction of the three-storey building, now named The Terraces, which commenced in June.

He said all the municipal planning permissions and heritage-related regulations were being strictly adhered to, and, at this stage, he was unable to say when the building would be completed.

Suzette Farmer, from the Phoenix Committee, which represents victims of apartheid’s forced removals, declined to comment saying the committee had to find out more about the project before commenting.

An artist’s impression, supplied by The Terraces Simon’s Town director Barry Fletcher, of the three-storey block of flats.