Report from the Executive Committee
We have a special responsibility to ensure our unique historical and cultural environment is protected for future generations
Protecting the Constantia Valley is one of the precepts in the Constantia Property Owners’ Association Constitution and your Executive Committee and its Sub-Committees are dedicated to doing just that. However in a changing environment of developmental expansion we cannot do this in isolation.
We need the help of all our members to build an understanding among the many roleplayers in local and provincial government, and their officials, that Constantia is a uniquely valuable asset to the City, to the Western Cape and to South Africa itself. We also need to persuade developers that there is no longterm benefit in insensitive development. We need to persuade our residents to take extra care when applying for changes in land use.
It is important that all stakeholders, including the residents of Constantia, should understand the historic, cultural and natural elements that make Constantia a unique asset which should be protected for future generations.
Constantia makes a substantial contribution to the sustainability of the City of Cape Town as an internationally renowned tourist destination as well as a place where some of South Africa’s finest wines are produced. It is also internationally renowned as a desirable place to live and play. For these reasons it is vital that urgent priority be given to managing the present development frenzy and that efforts are made to give its historic and culturally important aspect some enforceable protection.
What Constantia has to offer is irreplaceable.
CAPE WINELANDS CULTURAL LANDSCAPE – A POSSIBLE WORLD HERITAGE SITE
With funding from UNESCO, work has begun under the auspices of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and Heritage Western Cape, towards the possible declaration of the Cape Winelands Cultural Landscape as a World Heritage Site. Other wineland cultural landscapes have been declared as
World Heritage Sites in the Loire Valley in France, Tokay region in Hungary, and in a wine growing area of Portugal. To qualify, an area must be seen as having ‘outstanding universal value’. If successful, this declaration would be the first outside Europe and would cover all the winelands in the Western Cape. Constantia wine farms and their environment, as the birthplace of the South African wine industry would therefore be included.
There is a long way to travel on this initiative and members of your Executive Committee and our Heritage Sub-Committee will stay closely in touch and report progress in future Newsletters. However, a World Heritage Site takes many years to register and it is urgent that other steps be taken before irreplaceable landscapes in the Valley are lost.
CPOA TO AIM FOR PROVINCIAL HERITAGE PROTECTION FOR THE CONSTANTIA VALLEY
As members probably know, the CPOA has placed on record our concerns about the possible impact on the character and environment of the Constantia Valley of the new City-wide Integrated Zoning Scheme. The purpose of this is to create a uniform set of zoning regulations over the whole city. This means that whether a property is in Clifton, or Crossroads, the City Bowl, Claremont, Manenberg, Retreat or Constantia, the same regulations for single residential zones will apply.
We are particularly concerned about allowing three storied houses ‘as of right’; 50% coverage on erven above 500m²; relaxation of building lines – especially on street frontages – and many other changes that could alter our landscape and environment in a fundamental way.
We do not wish to see Constantia, which has its own unique character, become an urban area like the City Bowl or even a suburban area like Claremont. We believe we have the support of our members in all our attempts to retain a rural character for Constantia.
Against this background, your Executive Committee has taken a decision to apply to the South African Heritage Resources Agency via their Provincial authority, Heritage Western Cape, for protection and declaration of the cultural landscape of the winelands of the Constantia Valley. We propose to use this protection, together with other planning policies and proposals, to apply to the City for a heritage resource, and environment resource, overlay zone for Constantia, as allowed for in the new Integrated Zoning Scheme. We believe it is vital that we take this opportunity for Constantia to retain its unique character and environment and to avoid Constantia becoming ‘just another suburb’ of Cape Town.
An application to the heritage authorities for protection of our cultural landscape will be funded by the Constantia Valley Trust. Prof Fabio Todeschini, a prominent Cape Town heritage expert from the University of Cape Town, will be leading the project.
It will be very much in line with the declaration obtained for the Boschendal region of the Dwarsrivier Valley. It was under this protection and declaration that proposed developments on the historic Boschendal Estate are being managed.
REGISTER OF HISTORIC ASPECTS OF THE CONSTANTIA VALLEY
The CPOA Heritage Sub-Committee has launched a project to update the existing register of historical buildings, artifacts, avenues and unique landscapes that exist in the Constantia Valley.
The new list will be used to update the City of Cape Town’s heritage register and to develop various strategies to ensure the effective protection of our heritage assets for future generations.
The City has developed a new Cultural Heritage Strategy Plan which will shortly go out for public participation. This is being done in terms of its duty under the National Heritage Resources Act. Whereas before, the city’s heritage policies tended to focus on buildings and monuments, the new policy is more all- encompassing and now includes objects, groups of buildings, streetscapes, historic colonial and pre-colonial archaeology as well as historic and cultural landscapes. The Constantia Valley is rich in slave culture and history as well as that of early Dutch and English settlements.
Our Heritage Sub-Committee is also planning events around Heritage Day in September. It is important to create public awareness and participation in all aspects of our history and the CPOA will report on events and plans in future newsletters and in the local newspapers.
IMPORTANT DATE FOR RESIDENTS OF CONSTANTIA – MARCH 3
The second public participation meeting on proposals for a City wide, Integrated Zoning Scheme is to be held on 3 March at 19:00 at Alphen Centre. As mentioned above, your Executive Committee has some fundamental concerns about aspects of the new zoning scheme. Some proposals we have welcomed, such as a limitation on the amount of space permitted for working-from-home and bed and breakfast accommodation. But we remain opposed to recommendations that three storey houses with 50% coverage on erven greater than 500m² be allowed as of right; that there is no protection from insensitive buildings on mountain-sides; that building line setbacks have been reduced to 3,5m from a street boundary, with 1,5m for garages and 3m for side boundaries.
It is important that with its unique cultural and historic landscapes, the outstanding natural beauty of its setting and desirable residential character, that an overlay zone be created for Constantia. In this way it will be differentiated from high density suburbs in Cape Town. So please come along and give your support to the CPOA.
Copies of the second draft proposals for an Integrated Zoning Scheme for the City will be available in libraries and at the Alphen Centre before the meeting on 3 March.
STATUS OF STRUCTURE PLANS AND SPECIAL AREAS STUDY
In our last Newsletter we reported on the status of three important planning instruments for the Valley: the Constantia-Tokai Structure Plan, a Special Areas study of (Historic) Constantia and a Structure Plan for the Constantia Village Triangle. All three have been through their required public participation processes. It is with regret, despite pressure being exerted by our Councillors, the CPOA and other residents’ associations in the Valley, none of these plans have been moved along any further. They seem to have got stuck in the City of Cape Town’s system.
It would have been very beneficial to have had these plans approved as policy before the new Integrated Zoning Scheme is introduced so that they could bolster our chances of obtaining an overlay zone with appropriate regulations to differentiate Constantia from other areas.
The public participation for the Structure Plan for Constantia-Tokai was completed in the early part of 2003 and that for the Special Areas Study of (Historic) Constantia in April 2001. The Triangle Structure Plan was approved by the City’s Planning and Environment Committee over a year ago, but it has still not reached the Executive Mayor for her approval and recommendation to Council. We sincerely hope that in the next Newsletter we will be in a position to report some progress.
CITY’S WATER CRISIS
As members know, the city’s dams are rapidly drying up and we have an ever-escalating water crisis. The CPOA Executive would like to make an earnest appeal to all residents of the Valley to abide by the new regulations imposed by the City to conserve water. It really is in the interests of all residents of Cape Town to work together to reach a savings target of 20%. The city’s target should be the target of every household too.
For the sake of clarity, these are the latest regulations for residential properties for the use of municipal (potable) water that came into operation in January 2005:
- You may water your garden and lawn for up to half an hour only with a hosepipe or 20 minutes only with a drip irrigation system on Mondays if your property has an even street number, and on Tuesdays if it has an uneven number.
- OR You may water your garden and lawn for up to one hour only if you use a bucket or watering can on Mondays and Thursdays irrespective of the property numbering.
- You may not use both options given above. Only if you use a bucket or watering can may you water on two days a week.
- Your hose must be hand-held and have a water flow control nozzle.
- You may not water between 10:00 and 18:00.
- No irrigation systems, sprayers, pop-ups or sprinklers may be used at any time.
- You may not use municipal water attached to a hosepipe to wash or rinse motor vehicles, motor cycles, or motor boats.
- You may not use municipal water attached to a hosepipe to wash walls, windows, other immovable structures, paths, pavements and paved areas.
- In cases of extreme hardship (age or infirmity) you may apply to the Council for an exemption from these regulations. Requests may be faxed to 419-9667.
Boreholes and well points
- There are no restrictions on the use of these. However it is recommended that they only be used before 10:00 and after 18:00.
- However if a borehole or well point is used, a sign must be placed on your boundary, facing the street to show that you are using non-municipal water.
- The new restrictions are silent on the use of municipal water to top up swimming pools. But it is in the interests of the whole City if residents were to be sparse in their use of precious drinking water (municipal water) for this purpose. Please consider getting a pool cover if you can as this will reduce evaporation.
These restrictions don’t apply to plant nurseries, cricket pitches, bowling greens, golf greens, croquet lawns and major sports stadia.
A NEW THREAT TO ALREADY-BUSY SPAANSCHEMAT RIVER ROAD
A new proposal has emerged, instigated by the Capricorn Park development in Muizenberg, to link Prince Georges Drive (M5) and Steenberg Road. On the surface this may not appear to affect Constantia but if this proposal is approved, the amount of traffic coming off Steenberg Road onto Orpen Rd in Tokai and then onto Spaanschemat River Road will increase enormously. While intended to link the M5 and M3, a great deal of traffic will not use the M3.
This plan will be objected to by the CPOA, not only because the proposed route cuts right across the Sandvlei Nature Reserve but also because of the impact it will have on commuter traffic along Spaanschemat River ROAd. This already busy road which is a declared scenic route, has seen a huge increase in traffic over the past few years, with more to come. Among the contributors to this have been the new Steenberg shopping centre, which is to add a Woolworths, Reddam School, general development at Westlake, the American International School, the new American Consulate, the huge residential and ‘lifestyle’ development on Steenberg Mountain of some 360 houses at Stonehurst Mountain Estate, two new developments off Willow Road and a large one in Strawberry Lane.
Traffic studies done by the City in preparation for its Scenic Drive Management Plan as far back as 2000 concluded that Steenberg/Orpen/Spaanschemat River Roads were running to full capacity and that no further developments should be allowed! Yet on top of these developments resolution still has to be reached on the school site on the corner of Firgrove and Spaanschemat River Roads as well as the Porter Estate. Warning bells should be ringing because the amount of traffic carried by a commuter road is often used by town planners as a ‘reason’ for allowing developments that are out of keeping with surrounding residential areas.
Anyone wanting to object to the proposal to link Prince George’s Drive and Steenberg Road may apply to become an interested and affected party (I&AP) to Louis de Villiers, de Villiers Brownlie Associates, 21 Menin Avenue, Claremont 7708. This will give you access to the details of the proposals.
The status of the application for a toll road from the West Coast to Westlake (R300 Toll Road) is that the City of Cape Town has commented extensively, and adversely, on the proposal. The Provincial Government has also spoken out against it. The favoured plan at the moment is an additional fuel tax to fund maintenance and expansion of the road network in the Western Cape. This was announced by Premier Rasool in mid-Feb. Business organizations are however, at this stage, opposed to an additional fuel tax.
NEW OUTDOOR ADVERTISING BY-LAW COULD SEE THE DEMISE OF ESTATE AGENTS’ SIGNBOARDS
The current City of Cape Town by-law that governs outdoor advertising and signage is to be revised. After deliberations by many working groups, workshops and committees, a revised by-law is soon to go out for general public comment.
Of particular interest to residents of Constantia is a new proposal on estate agents’ and property marketing signboards that advertise show houses, properties for sale or to let, or advertised as ‘sold’.
The amended by-law recommends that estate agents signboards will be allowed in all areas of control (Constantia is an area of maximum control) on condition that no sign is no more than 0,2m² in size and can only be attached to the property itself. This means that if the proposals are accepted, only one sign per property will be allowed.
A workshop with estate agents and residents’ associations was held last month with City officials and councillors who are members of the Planning and Environment Portfolio Committee. The CPOA was represented by a resident and councillor.
Estate agents present were divided on this new proposal. Smaller agencies, especially those from the Northern suburbs, were in favour of the status quo i.e being allowed six boards per show house. But most of the bigger agencies seemed to favour the new proposal. They are aware that the current by-law is flouted by agents who exceed the permitted number of boards or who put up boards as pure advertising whether they have a house on show in the vicinity or not and those who ignore the ban on signboards on declared scenic routes. Most residents agree that the plethora of boards in Constantia on Saturdays and Sundays amounts to the worst kind of visual clutter.
The CPOA’s position on estate agents signboards is that we support having only one signboard affixed to the boundary of a property for sale. We believe that estate agents can and should use newspaper advertisements to give the address of a property they are marketing. This occurs in Johannesburg and in cities like Vancouver, where street addresses are given in newspapers and no boards are allowed on streets.
We do not accept estate agents’ arguments that they are delivering a service to the public by putting up ‘pointer’ boards. A range of professionals such as doctors, vets, dentists and lawyers as well as tradesmen like plumbers, electricians and others deliver a service to the public, yet are not, and should not, be allowed to put up advertising boards.
STATUS OF VARIOUS LARGE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE VALLEY
The owners of this property, on the corner of Constantia Main Road and Ladies Mile Extension have appealed to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning against the decision by Heritage Western Cape not to approve their Environmental Impact Assessment. The CPOA objected to the original proposals to subdivide this property into 26 erven on the basis of historic, cultural and environmental considerations.
Subdivision in Strawberry Lane – Faircape (Strawberry Fields)
After being held up by an appeal from a nearby resident, this development has now been approved by the Provincial authorities and will soon go ahead. The developer has agreed to a plaque at the entrance gates stating that the land was once home to tenant farmers who made a unique contribution to Cape Town as strawberry, vegetable and flower growers.
Stonehurst Mountain Estate
This large development at the south end of the Valley, on the slopes of the Steenberg mountain, has now been approved by both the City and Provincial authority. This is a very large development which your Association opposed because it believed that the density was too high, because of the visual impact on the mountain slopes of double storied houses on small plots (some as small as 250m²) and because it regarded the Traffic Impact Assessment as deficient.
‘Park and Ride’ site, cnr Ladies Mile and Spaanschemat River Road.
- The outcome of two land claims on this land is still undecided. A decision by the Land Claims Commissioner to a request by the City to swap this land for land of equal size remains unknown.
- The continued use of this property as a garden refuse depot is also under discussion. We are assured that no decision will be made on its future before public opinion has been obtained. The CPOA position on this is that the site should remain a local, small scale one possibly only for garden refuse. There are conflicting views about garden contractors being permitted to use it and about builders’ dumping rubble there. Because of the vast amount of garden material being put onto the site by commercial operators, the site is over-used and the management and the equipment on site cannot cope. Tinder-dry garden refuse which has been piling up all summer is currently a fire hazard which is exacerbated by a number of vagrants living on the site.
REPORT FROM CPOA TREASURER
At this stage we are half-way through the financial year and as is customary have received subscriptions from the majority of our listed members. We have been most grateful for the voluntary contributions made by many members over and above their subscriptions. This has enabled your committee to replenish some of the reserves utilized during the past two years, when unexpected expenditures had to be incurred.
It is a sad fact that less than a quarter of Constantia residents are contributing members of the Association. However, we have recently acquired the complete list of ratepayers in the Valley and are in the process of writing to non-members on a personalised basis to urge that they too join the Association. The current subscription levels of R190 (for a couple) and R130 (for a single person) are certainly of a nominal nature, given the benefits of membership set out elsewhere in this newsletter. We need a much larger base of membership to carry out the work of the Association on behalf of all residents in Constantia.
We are in communication with the trustees of the Constantia Valley Trust to which some members contributed financially in the recent past. Its current activities around the Constantia Village Triangle and Sillery Farm and its up-to-date financial position will be explained more fully in the next newsletter.
In order to improve communication with members, as well as with the general public, your Committee has undertaken to set up a website for easy access to current information on relevant activities. The website is presently under construction and will go live on 1 April 2005 at www.novadesign.co.za/cpoa/index.html
DO YOU VALUE THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF CONSTANTIA
The members of the Executive Committee and its sub-committees make valuable contributions to our overall efforts – some of which are reported in this newsletter. However our quest is still for residents to assist by joining the Executive Committee or being co-opted to any of our sub-committees: Land Use, Heritage, Environment or Membership and Communication. We would particularly like our committees to become more representative of all who live in the Valley and welcome anyone with specialist knowledge. Please email us, or fax or telephone our Secretary – contact details on front page of this Newsletter.