Funding ruins heritage

The Oude Westhof ruin on erf 37464 in Welgemoed.

Councillors committed to finding the more than R1 million needed to restore the crumbling Oude Westhof ruin on erf 37464, Welgemoed, at the Sub-council 3 meeting on Tuesday June 14. The heritage site belongs to the City of Cape Town and is next to the Oude Westhof Village Square. It was reportedly a wine cellar and dates back to the 18th century.

The cellar stands on the ground that was given to Pieter van der Westhuizen by Governor Wilhelm Adriaan van der Stel in 1702, as freehold land.

A City of Cape Town report to sub-council noted that the ruin “is not fenced or secured in any way”, but it is protected by heritage laws and “any proposed alteration, addition or demolition is subject to an application process at Heritage Western Cape.”

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Ward councillor Andrea Crous said the issue dated back to 2007.

Residents had complained to her about the ruin because homeless people slept there.

An initial investigation by the Durbanville Heritage Society (DHS) found it would cost more than R1 million to do “basic restoration”.

This would include rebuilding walls, the attic, stairs, the roof and replacing doors and windows.

“It is, however, also noted that an interim measure to secure the ruin in order to protect it against degradation, theft and vandalism needs to be sought urgently,” the report states.

It notes that City Parks and the environmental resource management (ERM) department, have no funds to restore the ruin and recommends Sub-council 3 pay for the restoration from its budget or seek a public/private partnership.

“Given the concerns raised by the local community and the significance of the ruin as a heritage resource, it is important that the work that was started by DHS be continued,” the report states.

Johann van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said the issue had been put on the sub-council’s agenda to explore funding possibilities.

He said the City respects the history of the Cape and, “as such, carries an overarching contingent responsibility toward preserving it for future generations, wherever possible”.

“Concerns have been expressed about the safety and security of the ruin and the negative social consequences that it may hold,” added Mr Van der Merwe.

Helen Neethling of DHS is overseeing the issue on behalf of the society.

“Dr Gwen Fagan did a site visit in November 2008 and confirmed that the building dates from the 18th century. She pointed to the cement vats which is proof that wine was made there. Since the development of Welgedacht and Oude Wetshof Village Square the cellar has been a problem for the surrounding property owners, as vagrants live there from time to time. The City then has to remove them and close off the door and other openings with wire. This is one of the reasons why the building should be restored and put to good use,” said Ms Neethling.

She said the building had now been measured and plans drawn to show what it had possibly looked like before.

“This is one of the few buildings dating from 1702 in the Tygerberg, and we should save it. Once restored, the building could be used as an educational centre for the youth or operational HQ for security companies, to name a few options.”

Mr Van der Merwe said the ruin is protected in terms of Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act and any proposed alteration, addition or demolition to it is subject to an application process at Heritage Western Cape. Already in 2009, Heritage Western Cape refused a permit for the demolition of the ruin.

Northern News approached Heritage Western Cape for comment on Thursday June 23. Its CEO, Mxolisi Dlamuka, said he would respond, but he could not say when. The response did not come by the time this edition went to print.