What you need to know:
- In his Friday ruling, Justice Douglas Singiza of the Civil Division noted that there was no enabling law that KCCA relied upon to list Watoto Church building as one of the national heritage buildings in the city as a basis to reject their bid for redevelopment of the property.
The High Court in Kampala has ordered Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the National Physical Planning Board (NPPB) to allow Watoto Church redevelop its property on Kampala Road.
In his Friday ruling, Justice Douglas Singiza of the Civil Division noted that there was no enabling law that KCCA relied upon to list Watoto Church building as one of the national heritage buildings in the city as a basis to reject their bid for redevelopment of the property.
“It is my judgment that the absence of any by-law by KCCA listing the Watoto Church property as a national heritage is unreasonably wrong for KCCA and the NPPB not to approve the mixed-use development plans of the Watoto Church,” ruled Justice Singiza.
Adding: “The decision to reject the mixed-use plans of the Watoto Church and Kampala playhouse by the KCCA and the NPPB is reviewed and set aside on account that the decision was procedurally illegal and improper.”
Watoto seeks to develop the facility into a 12-storeyed complex with conference facilities, 3-star hotel, a 3,000-seater auditorium and retail outlets.
Further in his decision, the judge observed that the idea of KCCA and NPPB hiding behind the ‘wings’ of other government bodies to reject the Watoto Church and Kampala Playhouse mixed-use development plan was not only illegal but manifestly irrational.
To that effect, the judge directed KCCA and the NPPB to within three months reconsider the Watoto Church mixed-use development plans application from the date of his ruling.
A national heritage site is one that has been registered by a governmental agency as being of national importance to the cultural heritage or history of the country.
Watoto Church, formally headed by Pastor Gary Skinner and now headed by Pastor Julius Rwotlonyo, acquired the building in 1984.
Court records show that in 2010, the church embarked on an effort to redevelop the property.
This saw Watoto Church’s architects (Kampala playhouse) in 2019 submit the development plans to KCCA for approval.
However, KCCA indicated that the rejection of Watoto Church’s redevelopment plans was based on the consideration that the mixed-use plans would obliterate the Church building which has features of cultural significance.
Court documents further indicate that Watoto Church then engaged the NPPB in its quest for approval, which request was too rejected with the NPPB instead advising KCCA and Watoto Church management to cooperate in finding an agreeable position.
But Watoto Church management insisted that their church building was not listed under any statutory instrument as required by law as a national heritage site.
KCCA had, in its defence argued through Ms Anita Kusiima, the deputy director for physical planning, claimed that what it did was to implement the recommendations of the NPPB and that no final decision had been made on the matter by KCCA.
But Justice Singiza instead awarded costs to Watoto Church and Kampala Playhouse for having presented a solid case and went ahead and ordered KCCA to foot all their legal costs.
Speaking to this publication yesterday, Mr Francis Gimara of ALP Advocates, who represented Watoto Church in court, welcomed the decision.
“It’s an unfortunate case where KCCA was not using any law to make a decision that does not have a legal basis and the same affected the 30 million-dollar project of my client,” Mr Gimara said.
As a way forward, Justice Singiza has ordered KCCA to enact a by-law within a period of three years listing all the properties that should be protected as a national heritage site.
The judge also ordered that the properties to be listed should be compulsorily acquired and the owners compensated first as required under the law.