City ordered to halt work on historic Salt River hall

Stop works order issued by Heritage Western Cape as no heritage permit obtained

By Matthew Hirsch

8 July 2024

Photo of Salt River building

The City has been ordered to stop work on the Salt River hall as they failed to obtain the necessary heritage permit. The City was replacing the roof of the hall, the annex of which had asbestos sheeting. Photo: Steve Kretzmann

The City’s replacement of the historic Salt River hall’s asbestos roof has come to a halt following Heritage Western Cape issuing a stop works order due to the necessary heritage approval not being in place.

The City of Cape Town, which owns the building, started work on the site on 24 June, and the stop works order was issued two days later.

A permit from Heritage Western Cape (HWC) is required as the building is more than 60-years-old.

The building was initially established as a recreational centre and library for railway employees in 1917, and later used as a community centre hosting civic, political, social and recreational activities.

In 2020, residents started a petition to get the building and adjacent Salt River Market, which has been earmarked for social housing, nominated as a provincial heritage site.

According to City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo, the asbestos roof needs to be replaced in line with national regulations, and is part of a Recreation and Parks Department programme to remove the asbestos roofs on all the City’s community buildings.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Western Cape (HWC), Helene Vollgraaff, confirmed a stop works order had been put in place last week after they became “aware that work has commenced on site without the required approval in place”.

Vollgraff said a formal application, in terms of section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (NHRA), must be submitted to HWC for consideration before work can resume.

She said HWC needs to assess whether there has been a “significant impact to the heritage resource before it can decide on what further action can be taken”.

Executive member of the Salt River Heritage Society (SRHS), Anwar Omar, said the City would have to explain its conduct to HWC, and needed to consult the community as part of its permit application.

Tyhalibongo said the relevant City departments were busy obtaining the required permit in line with the hall being listed as a Grade 3A heritage resource building under general protection of the National Heritage Resource Act.

He said the Recreation and Parks Department was investigating why work, estimated to cost R1.9-million, started without the required permit.