Wynberg Village is an area with unique heritage value in Cape Town. It has a special status as an urban conservation area in terms of the City of Cape Town’s town planning scheme. This came about as a result of the efforts of residents and other concerned citizens, recorded as far back as 1959, but gaining momentum in 1980 with the formation of a Wynberg Advisory Committee, whose purpose was to liaise with and advise the Cape Town City Council and the National Monuments Commission with regard to the preservation of buildings in Wynberg. Arising out of these efforts, the Old Wynberg Village Society was formed on 26 March 1993, and through constant liaison with residents, property owners and the Cape Town City Council, today plays a critical role in preserving this historical conservation area. The Village has also become an interesting tourist attraction.
There has been a long-standing and delicate balance of residential and business use of properties in the Wynberg Village area. This is an intrinsic part of the heritage fabric of the area. One of the biggest threats to the preservation of the village as an urban conservation area, with this balance of business and residential life, has been the desire of businesses to operate out of residentially zoned quaint historic buildings in the area. A number of buildings, particularly on Wolfe Street, have historically housed businesses, and have had long-standing zonings rights for business use, many with conditions that ensured that the business was in keeping with the historical nature of the village. However, there has also been significant demand to use residentially zoned properties for business purposes. This threatens the said long-standing and delicate balance of residential and commercial life in the Village. Inter alia, the conversion of residential properties to business use results in residential areas becoming deserted at nights and on weekends, causing security concerns and a lack of residential community feel, to the detriment of the remaining residents.
It is true that change is a fact of life, and there have been a number of instances where an owner of a residential property, wishing to conduct some or other form of business from his or her property, would apply for a temporary departure from the residential zoning. When granted by Council, this would normally be for a limited five year period, and would impose very strict conditions on the type of business to be conducted (eg sale of antiques), the number of employees allowed and in most cases would require that a residential component be maintained. Importantly, the business use would typically be of very limited impact. It was not unusual for such applications to be renewed at the end of the first five year period for a further five year period. Council however is not prepared to consider granting more than two departures, as it views any attempt to obtain further departures as a permanent change to the use of the property, requiring rather an application to rezone the property, thereby giving all affected parties the opportunity to comment thereon and exercise their rights.