Report from the Executive Committee
Residential intrusions a threat to historic farms
Dealing with land use issues makes up an enormous amount of the work done by your Executive Committee and the co-opted members who assist us.
The Constitution of the CPOA makes the preservation of the beauty, rural character and historic culture of Constantia of paramount importance in promoting and safeguarding the interests of the ratepayers and residents. There are other reasons too why we should fight so hard to protect our cultural and historic assets. The Valley plays an important role in the tourist economy of the City and the Western Cape, which are rated among the top destinations in the world and because the present generation has a duty to preserve South Africa’s heritage assets for future generations.
The biggest threat is the number and scale of applications that are being made to rezone and subdivide established and historic farms for residential and commercial purposes. We believe that these undermine policies and plans at both a local and metropolitan level which have been developed in order to control undesirable, inappropriate developments. The Draft Structure Plan for the Valley expressly identifies historic farms in the Valley as framework elements will, when adopted, prevent residential invasion of farms.
Among the applications that we are dealing with at the moment are:
Sillery Farm. Negotiations around this site have been going on for over two years. Developers have submitted an application to build a gated, security village which will enclose an historic furrow – built by slaves in the 1790’s – as well as a wetland. In order for a rezoning and subdivision to take place an environmental impact assessment was required. This was done and approved by the Provincial authorities. The CPOA appealed against this approval on the grounds, inter alia, that the proposed development is inappropriate for this
sensitive site, that the historic furrow should be opened up to the public and that the wetland should not be ‘privatised’.
The resolution of the issues on Sillery now lies with the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Ms Tasneem Essop. We understand that she has appointed an archaeologist to do some further specialist studies and we now await her decision.
Steenberg Farm. This farm, the oldest in the Valley, is now owned by Mr Graham Beck who also owns wine farms in Robertson and Fransch Hoek.
Two applications for changes in land use were made by the previous owner. The first, for the extension and conversion of the existing winery building to include administration offices, a restaurant serving lunches, and a vinoteque, was approved by the City some months ago. The CPOA did not object to this as it is in line with planning policy, which allows compatible activities on farms in order to maintain their viability.
The second application is to rezone and subdivide a portion of the farm to create a security village of 30 cluster houses. This would entail converting existing workers’ cottages and adding new houses. The CPOA objected to this proposal and is formulating an appeal to the Provincial authorities against the City’s decision to support it against the recommendations of their planning officials.
Steenberg was proclaimed a farm in 1682, before Simon van der Stel established his farm at Groot Constantia. Its original name was Swaaneweide and ownership was granted by Simon van der Stel to a woman, Catharina Ustings, even though women then at the Cape had no such rights. Due to its historic importance and because every plan in place to protect our valuable historic assets and valuable agricultural land would be compromised, the CPOA will continue to oppose the rezoning and sub-division of any part of Steenberg. We also vigorously discourage any intrusion of residential development into the Urban Edge which is regarded by the City and Provincial authorities to be of great importance in shaping the future development of Cape Town.
The Old Poultry Farm. The owners of this property, which includes the Barnyard and plant nursery, have applied for its rezoning from rural use to agricultural use in order to subdivide it into luxury estates. In terms of the zoning scheme applicable in the Constantia Valley, a rural zoning allows erven of a minimum of 21,5ha whereas an agricultural zoning can be as small as 8 000m². All farms in the Valley are zoned ‘rural’ in order to avoid fragmentation.
The CPOA has objected to this application because we believe that the re-zoning from ‘rural’ to ‘agricultural’ is undesirable as it is simply a means of converting farm land into residential land.
Soetvlei. This application is for the subdivision of a portion of land, that takes access off Soetvlei Avenue, into 11 erven of 4 000m² each. The CPOA has opposed this as it is an extremely sensitive site. The developer proposes to use the public open space on the land in his calculation of the minimum erf sizes. We believe this to be unacceptable as large portions of the land are actually wetlands which can not be built upon. It is proposed that building platforms be used for double-storey houses which would be built on a slope. This would have a very adverse visual impact on the rural character of that part of the Valley.
The proposal would also cut off any attempt to create a ‘source-to-sea’ walking trail as the public open space that has been ‘offered’ by the developer is an impassable quagmire for most of the year.
The developer’s application contained a heritage assessment and archaeological survey in very brief form. The CPOA does not support the findings as they are too superficial and we believe that these were simply based on a one-day walk across the property. This property has been in agricultural use for centuries and has gone through many uses since the Gorinhaiqua grazed their cattle there.
Uitsig. Whilst there is no formal application for development on this historic farm, members of the CPOA Exco have been approached informally to gauge their attitudes towards possible developments on the farm. These interviews have been discussed at length in Exco meetings and the feelings are that, bearing in mind the duty we have to uphold our CPOA constitution, we will oppose any development that goes against current planning policies and plans which compromise the sustainability of the cultural landscape of our historic farms.
It is common knowledge that the ownership of Uitsig has changed and a new company, which is 50% owned by Mr Dave McCay and 50% by a consortium led by Mr Tokyo Sexwale, now owns the farm.
Our information is that the intention of this new company is to subdivide the farm to create 125 luxury estates on Uitsig. We have however no further information at present but will keep members informed.
Still no Structure Plan to manage developments!
In spite of constant promises from various people in the City Council over many years to ‘look into the matter’, the Constantia Valley still has no statutory land use planning framework to use in assessing applications for changes in land use. A plan which would give us, officials and applicants, statutory guidance was commissioned by the City Council in February 2002 and was completed after many months of work by consultants, representatives of all the residents’ organisations in the Valley and members of the public. It was completed, with full agreement from participants, in September 2002 and handed to the City for processing and approval. All that was required to start this process was a short report written by a competent official. Yet to date our structure plan still lies gathering dust in an office somewhere in the City.
This is not the only planning tool that should guide development in the Constantia Valley that has been sidelined. A Constantia Village Structure Plan, which is designed to prevent commercial intrusion into residential areas around the shopping centre, and a Special Areas Study of Historic Constantia, which is intended to set urban design principles, have also been ignored. These two plans, which have been through all their required public participation processes are intended to be annexures to the Constantia-Tokai Structure Plan and therefore enforceable to the same extent. But their completion, involving only Council approval, has also simply been ignored.
The latest information we have had in writing on the status of the Constantia-Tokai Structure Plan was an email to inform us that ‘there is no good news’. The official who we approached confessed that the South Peninsula Region has not had a spatial planner for over 3 years and therefore there is no-one to write a simple covering report. This is all that is needed in order for all this vital work to be processed through the Council’s system. Qualified planners who have left Council’s employment are available to do this work and, in our view, should be used to expedite the process.
However, in spite of all our efforts so far being ignored, we will persist – maybe even on legal lines – to get these plans and policies approved. Without them all land use decision-making has for the past four years been made on an ad hoc basis.
Furthermore some of the bad decisions that have been made – especially in regard to allowing subdivisions up to 50% below the minimum erf size (and in one case 33%) – can set a dangerous precedent as they will be exploited by those who only see immediate financial gain, or who have no interest in the unique character of the Valley nor its long-term future.
Report from your Treasurer
We are more than half-way through the financial year and, as is normal, have received subscriptions from the majority of our listed members. At this point we are slightly behind budget for subscription income, but expect to attract further new members as a result of the wider distribution of this particular newsletter and certain other initiatives. We continue to be most grateful for the voluntary contributions made by many members over and above their subscriptions.
Our paid-up membership base currently stands at 860 households, although we are aware that there are some 3 800 registered ratepayers in the valley. We are now able to communicate with all ratepayers and I sincerely hope that more non-members will join the Association, by completing the attached membership form. The current annual subscription levels of R200 (for a couple) and R140 (for a single person) are certainly of a nominal nature, given the benefits of membership set out elsewhere in this newsletter. We still need a much larger base of membership to carry out the vital work of the Association on behalf of all residents in Constantia.
Report from Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts
The City of Cape Town has embarked on a process to give De Hel heritage status in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act. This is very exciting news and should be welcomed by all residents as it will protect this valuable and sensitive area, with its historic connections to early settlement at the Cape and precious afromontane forest remnants. A successful Open House display held at Alphen Centre on Friday 21 April, when the project was introduced, showed the significance of the site and allowed people to discuss it with the consultant. All the documentation is available at the council offices at Alphen Centre and written comment may be made until 12 May to email@example.com or faxed to 797-1005.
Current municipal legislation on the control of squatters is ineffectual and as a result our riverine open space has been threatened. Therefore we have asked for assistance from the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (comprising 45 residents’ associations in Cape Town) to back a call for a review of the law. Meanwhile vigilance and early reporting of any structures within hours of erection will remain our only defence.
* Due to a lack of awareness relating to ‘greenbelt encroachment regulations’ some residents have to be approached on a regular basis to remove dangerous and unsightly razor wire which overhangs public walkways.
* The stripping of boekenhout tree bark in De Hel, presumably for muti, has been hugely destructive. Fortunately the ‘strippers’ mode of transport has been identified and while we await developments, the City’s Parks’ Department has used a protective paint on remaining trees.
Fireworks, loud music and neighbourhood nuisances
The CPOA receives many complaints, as do your local Councillors, about fireworks, loud music (particularly late at night), estate agents’ boards littering scenic routes, low-flying helicopters, barking dogs and other ‘nuisances’. Here is a short and general guide to dealing with these:
Fireworks: These are totally banned by the City in all residential areas. The only places where fireworks may be set off are in specially designated areas decided upon by the City (usually beaches) on specially designated dates – usually the Festival of Lights (Divali) and Guy Fawkes. If anyone in your area uses fireworks, ‘phone the City’s Queries & Complaints line at 086-010-3089 or the Municipal Police at 797-4207 (Wynberg) or 084-211-2115 (after hours).
Loud noise: Because a proposed by-law to deal with any kind of loud neighbourhood noise was never approved by the previous Council, the only recourse residents have at present is to report it to the South African Police Services in terms of the Noise Nuisance Act. This entails going to your nearest police station and laying a charge. Noise from builders who work after hours or over weekends can be reported to the Building Control Officer at the South Peninsula Region office on 710-8000 during office hours.
Barking dogs: This type of neighbourhood nuisance can be very, very trying as the owners of the offending pets are usually not at home all day. However the City does have an Animal Control office (in Tygerberg). Their daytime telephone number is 938-8543 and after hours 084-211-2115. Ask them to direct your complaint to the nearest office. If you get no help, then contact the SPCA.
Outdoor signage: Estate agents’ boards and posters that are on scenic routes and are left up past their ‘take down’ date, can be reported to Selwyn in the Building Control office at the South Peninsula Region at 710-8000 during office hours.
ARE THERE POTHOLES IN YOUR ROAD?
The CPOA intends discussing the sorry state of roads in Constantia with officials in the South Peninsula Region who are responsible for road maintenance. For too long our roads have not been maintained and potholes grow by the day – in numbers and in size!
In order to have as comprehensive a list as possible, we would welcome members sending to us the names of roads with an indication of where potholes are that need attention. You may submit your list to our office, either by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to CPOA, PO Box 68, Constantia, 7848 or drop it off at the Alphen Centre, clearly marked CPOA.
SEWAGE SPILLS ON ALPHEN TRAIL
There have been many complaints about the sorry state of the sewerage system along the Alphen Trail on the Diep River – particularly outside the Alphen Hotel and on Le Sueur meadow. We have been assured by Mr Dave Buerger, formerly in charge of Engineering Services in the South Peninsula Region that the problems are being attended to. A blockage that caused the most recent problem has been cleared and a relief valve under the freeway has been installed. However there is a need for a long-term solution and the City officials have requested money to be put onto the budget for the installation of additional pumps. If this budget is approved, the work that needs to be done to upgrade this sewer will commence in the next financial year which begins on 1 July.
Members of CPOA Executive Committee