Over the past few hundred years the Constantia Valley has been a ‘special’ place to many generations of people who contributed their values, beliefs, practices and traditions. For today’s residents it is still a ‘special’ place, encompassing the nearest historic winelands to the Mother City and offering a much valued, semi-rural ambiance within the boundaries of a busy City of Cape Town. The mountains, valleys, forests, winelands and greenbelts create a special cultural landscape.
Sixteen years ago the Local Council of the Constantia Valley commissioned consultants to draw up a Growth Management and Development Plan for the Valley which included a list of heritage resources detailing buildings and natural features. This formed the start of an inventory of tangible heritage resources in the Valley. An initiative by National and Provincial bodies to declare the Cape Winelands Cultural Landscape a World Heritage Site has been under way for a few years. Arising out of this the Constantia Property Owners’ Association, through its consultant, Prof Fabio Todeschini, made representations to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and Heritage Western Cape (HWC). SAHRA’s Council resolved, in September 2006, that the Constantia –Tokai Valley was nationally significant in heritage terms and resolved that the historic core farms and some associated mountain land have significance as Grade 1 heritage resources. SAHRA gave support to HWC to manage the appropriate resources with SAHRA as a commenting authority. The owners have been informed by HWC.
The overall Grade 1 identification of the relevant sites means that any development proposals relating thereto have to be approved by HWC. All development applications would follow processes through the City of Cape Town and HWC. A number of meetings have been held over the past months between the consultants and representatives of the CPOA, Tokai Residents’ Association, Constantia Hills Residents’ Association, Friends of the Constantia Valley Greenbelts, Committee of Constantia Heritage Group, Simon van der Stel Foundation as well as officials of SAHRA, HWC and planning and heritage officials from the City of Cape Town. These meetings helped to update the Inventory of Tangible Heritage Resources in the Constantia-Tokai Valley, which includes about 300 sites and places and 90 buildings.
FUTURE OF OUR HISTORIC PLACES THE
CPOA HAS CALLED A PUBLIC MEETING
Monday 12 March 2007 at 8 p.m.
Alphen Centre, Constantia
Professor Todeschini will present a report
NEW PROPERTY VALUATIONS ROLL OPEN FOR INSPECTION
By now most residents will have received letters from the City Council informing them of a new valuation for their property. Many members of the CPOA have reacted with great concern at the huge increases in their valuations, as have residents across the City. It is important to note that everyone has the right to object if they think they have been unfairly treated, the information on the roll is incorrect or on any other factual basis. If any member of the Association has not had a notification from the City, the new valuation roll is available for inspection at the Alphen Centre in Constantia during office hours until 24 March 2007 or it can be accessed on the Council’s website at
Some information given by the Mayoral Committee member for Finance on the new property valuations is that new valuations are based largely on an ABSA House Index as at 2 July 2006. This has shown an increase of a factor of 3.4 since the last valuation dated 1 January 2000. Residential property has increased by a factor of 3.8 whilst the agricultural sector has increased by 3.1. Increased values do not automatically lead to an increase in rates. The City has already publicly said it will reduce the cents-in-the-rand payable as property tax and will also look at lowering the current 30% rebate for residential property to compensate for the overall increases in value. They have also claimed to be aware of the particular problem of pensioners who are on a fixed income, whose property has increased by more than the average.
The City has also said that it is important for individual property owners to assess whether their property has increased by more or less than the average of 3.8. If the increase is lower than this then it is likely that they will see a lowering of its cents-in-the-rand rate.
Any property owner who wishes to exercise a right to object to their new valuation may do so on a prescribed form, which is available from the Alphen Centre or anywhere that the roll is available. There will be officials in attendance to assist people with particular queries or problems. Members of the CPOA should be aware that the prescribed objection forms are very difficult to fill in because their wording is not clear. If you can manage it, it may be of value to you to approach a lawyer or property valuer to assist with your objection. Objections must be received by the City before 24 March 2007
When submitting an objection, a request can also be made to appear before a Valuations Board. Objections must be sent to:
The City of Cape Town
For Attention: The Valuations Board Secretary
P.O. Box 4522
Cape Town 8000
DEVELOPMENT ON SILLERY FARM APPROVED BY PROVINCE
Regretfully, the Minister in charge of the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) has approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the rezoning and sub-division of Sillery – an historic tract of land that has been described as an important site that enhances the unique character of Constantia. Sillery is a vast open space that adjoins Constantia Main Road and Ladies Mile Extension.
The CPOA questioned the process that was followed in this application and the Friends of the Constantia Valley Greenbelts, as well as surrounding residents, objected to the development on many levels. This was mainly because it is not in keeping with the general environment and that it impacts on a culturally important piece of land and because it could lead to the destruction of an historic furrow, which was buried by a previous owner. We have written to the Minister asking for her reasons for approval of the EIA but there is a very slim chance that Minister Essop will change her mind.
Notwithstanding approval of the EIA for the development of 26 houses in a gated security village on Sillery, the CPOA is in discussion with various departments of DEA&DP to get guidance on the process to be followed from now on and points of clarity where there are contradictions in the documentation giving approval of the EIA. Our primary concerns are the conditions to be imposed on the preservation of the historic furrow which runs through the development (built by slaves about 1790 and which is part of one of the earliest irrigation systems in the Cape) and the mitigation of the impact on the rural character of Constantia. We take our guidance in responding to developments of this sort from the Growth Management and Development Plan for the Constantia Valley and the Constantia/Tokai Structure Plan, both of which seek to preserve farmland and to retain the unique character of the Valley.
To date members of the CPOA EXCO have had meetings with Heritage Western Cape, the Provincial heritage resources authority, which has been tasked by the National Department of Culture to consider the provisional protection of the furrow; to register a servitude over it and to assist the community in obtaining reasonable access by way of a heritage agreement in terms of the South African Heritage Resources Act.
We have also met with Land Use officials of DEA&DP to discuss the process they will follow in setting conditions of development attached to sub-division and rezoning and we will in the coming weeks try to meet with the Provincial environment officials to get more clarity on the conditions they will set regarding both the construction and operational phases of the development.
COUNCIL TO ACT ON TRAFFIC CALMING FOR RESIDENTIAL ROADSs
A vast number of complaints from all areas of the City has led to the Council’s relevant portfolio committees – roads and transport and safety and security – holding a workshop to find ways of reducing the dangers to communities of speeding on residential roads. The main issues that were identified and which require attention by the City’s officials are:
- Insufficient and inadequate law enforcement
- Inappropriate vehicles using residential roads
- Lack of funding
- Low standard of planning and construction
- Inadequate provision for pedestrians
- Shortage of qualified staff
ITEMS BEING DEALT WITH BY EXCO
There is always a wide variety of issues in the Valley that appear on CPOA EXCO agenda. Among these are:
Servitude over Constantia Village. This is an ongoing ‘occupation’ as various complaints from surrounding residents or requests from the Centre’s management are discussed and managed in terms of the servitude which is held by the CPOA.
Summit Road Kramat. An application has been submitted to build toilets at the Kramat. A meeting has been held with local residents and the trustees of the Shah Mohammed Trust, the owners of the Kramat, in order to find a way of agreeing on the needs of visitors to the Kramat and those of local residents. At a recent meeting of both parties it was agreed that a holistic plan should be submitted so that the local authority can approve a single plan for development on the Kramat site: the necessary religious facilities, a caretaker’s cottage and toilets. However, in spite of an undertaking to do so, a current application for toilets only has not been withdrawn and therefore objections have been submitted by the CPOA and local residents. The site has been very badly neglected: vagrants are living there and it is overgrown. There has also been no maintenance of landscape planting that was done some time ago. The CPOA’s stance is that we are not against toilets being built but we want them to be built together with a caretaker’s cottage, adjacent to each other. The current plan shows the toilets on one side of the property and a parking area on the other side, with only a ’promise’ that if approval is given for toilets to be built then the Trust may decide to build a caretaker’s cottage near the parking area. We will now have to wait for the processing of the current application, which will have to go before a planning committee of the City.
Film shoots on greenbelts. While accepting that the film industry plays an important role in the City’s economic growth, we have been alarmed at the frequency of heavy generator trucks on greenbelts in Constantia and the refusal by film companies to allow walkers to use walking trails while they are working. Other complaints from residents are the unacceptably early hours at which catering services arrive – sometimes as early as 04:30 – and very disturbing, low-flying helicopters. The CPOA is now liaising with the Friends of the Constantia Greenbelts and the Ward 63 Councillor on an approach to the City’s film office to regulate film shoots on greenbelts and residential homes in a more considerate way. It has been brought to our attention that there are homes in Constantia which are being used for film shoots on a regular basis. This could constitute a commercial activity and is in contradiction of the City’s filming policy. If any resident is legitimately inconvenienced by a film shoot, queries can be made to the City’s film office by contacting Mr Davids on 021-483-9060.
Security in Greenbelts. In the light of an unfortunate incident in De Hel recently, where a group of walkers was robbed, the CPOA, together with the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts and our Ward Councillor, will be discussing with City officials ways to increase security
Kendal Road garden refuse site. The distressing and unsightly mess at the Kendal Road garden refuse site has been a bone of contention for some time. The CPOA would resist any attempts by the City to close this facility but we have enormous problems with the way in which it is currently run. Not only has garden refuse been allowed to accumulate into huge unsightly piles, which have created an unacceptable fire hazard, the entrance and berms around the site are ill-kept and littered with refuse. Another problem on the site is that shelters were erected by squatters and while these may have been removed, the squatters remain. We have requested Councillor Neil Ross and the Protea Sub-Council manager to find a way of getting the site cleaned up. We are informed that the current operators of the garden refuse site will have their lease terminated soon and that the City will again operate it, as it used to do. The CPOA has asked that a portion of the ward budget for 2006/7 be spent on landscaping the entrance to the site and that the gates be upgraded. Does anyone remember how attractive the garden at the entrance used to be when Council ran the facility?
Informal trading at traffic intersections. The Protea Sub-Council, into which the greater part of Constantia falls, has requested the Metropolitan Police Director to enforce City by-laws and Provincial and National legislation (Business and Road Traffic Acts) which forbid trading at busy intersections. This decision by the Sub-Council arose from a study done to establish how many traders were located at various traffic intersections and the extent of littering and whether there were any toilet facilities available to traders. The intersection at Doordrift and Spaanschemat River Roads at the entrance to Constantia Village was one of the sites that emerged as a problem area. The number of visitors who stop to admire the work of these traders suggests that they are popular. Therefore the CPOA would agree to backing an application from them to trade legally on a site designated for informal trading. There are two in Constantia: one on a triangle of open space between ADM stores and High Constantia and the other at Constantia Nek.
State of roads in Constantia. There has been a spate of complaints about the state of residential roads in nearly all areas of the City. Potholes are rife on roads throughout Constantia and the CPOA has drawn Council’s attention to this as well as the damage being done by aggressive weeds which have been allowed to grow in pedestrian pathways, gutters, channels and tarred edges, which breaks them up and adds to the deterioration of our roads and walkways. We have also asked that the Council budget for an upgrading of the shoulders and edges of Spaanschemat River Road. The current condition of this busy road creates a safety hazard for hundreds of runners and cyclists who use this scenic road – not only at Argus and Two Oceans times but as a recreation route throughout the year.
New regulations and tough penalties for unauthorized land uses.The CPOA has welcomed a recommendation by the City’s Planning and Environment Portfolio Committee that any unauthorized land use, which is contrary to the zoning of a property and which has not been granted planning permission, will now have to cease operation within 30 days. In the past the operator of an illegal land use was told they had a right to apply for approval to continue. Most times, in our experience, this delayed the closing of an illegal business – sometimes for up to two years. Then when an application for continued use came before a land use committee it was generally approved. Now, a notice to cease an unauthorized use within 30 days will be served on the operator. The notice will also make it known that if the operator fails to comply they will be liable to prosecution. If convicted, a fine not exceeding R100 000 (one hundred thousand rand) or imprisonment not exceeding 5 (five) years or both, may be imposed by the Court.
BRIEF REPORT FROM FRIENDS OF CONSTANTIA VALLEY GREENBELTS
Following a strategic planning session last year, the Friends group has adopted a project-oriented, rather than a maintenance-based, approach. This has meant that if people want something done, they have to become personally involved and champion it themselves. In this regard, we have had great support from Council and from Working for Wetlands.
The projects that we have tackled are the regulation of filming in the greenbelts, the clearing and establishment of a pathway in the Wolwekloof area and the pilot establishment of indigenous vegetation in the Grootboschkloof area (near Neva Close). The stream area opposite Alphen Hotel is being cleared of undergrowth prior to the broken wire fence being replaced with a palisade fence. Proposed projects are the clearing of Spaanschemat river area from below Peddlars to Firgrove Bridge, cleaning up the area between Hohenhort Drive and the retention dam. We will also be introducing uniform signage along the lines used by Kirstenbosch and the Table Mountain National Parks.
Our emphasis remains to encourage people to access the wonderful network of greenbelts and to use them appropriately in a sustainable way. They are a unique public asset and form part of our National Heritage – for enjoyment by us today and by our children tomorrow.