Newsletter October 2007

CONTENTS

WHY THE CPOA NEEDS MORE HELPING HANDS 

ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS WORLD HERITAGE STATUS FOR CONSTANTIA WINE FARMS

PROPERTY RATES UPSET SOME….PLEASE SOME

WHEN IN DOUBT, PLEASE REFER ANY REQUEST BY A NEIGHBOUR FOR A LAND USE CHANGE TO THE CPOA

NEW POLICY ON GATED, SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS 

NEW RULES FOR ESTATE AGENTS’ BOARDS

REPORT FROM THE GREENBELTS COMMITTEE

ALPHEN CLINIC OPEN FOR USE BY ALL

CPOA OBJECTS TO LIQUOR LICENCES BEING GRANTED IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS

LONG-AWAITED ‘NUISANCE’ BY-LAW APPROVED BY CITY

IMPORTANT LAND USE ITEMS:

GETTING IN TOUCH…..

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WHY THE CPOA NEEDS MORE HELPING HANDS 
As we move towards our Annual General Meeting on 14 November, this Newsletter will give members an overview of the varied and important projects and issues we have dealt with during the past year and to make an appeal for more members to come forward to assist the CPOA committees. We need help to deal with the increased amount of work we are called on to do for the Constantia community. Our workload has grown enormously this past year. This is due, in part, to the changes in local government, which now requires us to deal with two Sub-Councils and two wards (Ward 62 north of Klein Constantia Rd, and Willow Road and Ward 71 to the south of these roads).

Ward Forums will be started soon and as they will be a conduit to the two Sub-Councils which cover the Constantia Valley we will need to be represented on them. Sub-Councils have now been given delegated land use decision-making which will require a greater interaction by us with officials and our two Ward Councillors.

Our tireless, if as yet unfulfilled, objective of getting a Constantia/Tokai Structure Plan approved to provide a firm and consistent basis for land use decision-making has also taken up a lot of our time – both in strategic planning and meetings with the City’s officials and politicians.

The Executive Committee has taken a decision that we will continue to be responsive to requests for input into new or revised Council policies on a whole range of subjects as many of them affect residents and developments in our area. The City Council has become more active over the past year and this in turn has increased our workload. Also, there has been a change in the type of land use applications we have traditionally dealt with. Over the past year they have become more complex because there are a greater number of large development proposals which, by their very nature, have required lengthy discussions among ourselves as well as planners and environmental and heritage officials in the City and the Provincial Administration.

We have been extremely active in dealing with the Inventory of Heritage Resources in the Valley which will contribute, in the long run, to our historic farms being included in a nomination for World Heritage Status for the Cultural Landscape of the Cape Winelands. To this end, we will assist in creating a separate and independent Constantia Valley Heritage Association.

It is against this backdrop that we want to make an urgent appeal to members of the CPOA to offer their services to assist those who have carried a heavy burden over the past few years. After the election of office bearers at the AGM we propose to restructure the Executive Committee into portfolios, each of which will be served by a sub-committee on to which volunteers can be co-opted – if only to serve on specific projects. The time spent in meetings will not be burdensome – at the most a sub-committee will meet once a month for a few hours. In particular we need people who are passionate about the Constantia Valley and the preservation of its unique character as well as people who are interested in planning, heritage and environmental issues. We also need ‘eyes and ears’ to keep our roads and sidewalks clear of unsightly and illegal signage, builders rubble, litter, weeds, etc. Good ‘housekeeping’ shows pride in an area and we would all like to be proud of Constantia.

A table will be available at the Annual General Meeting where interested people can leave their names and contact details so that we can follow up and welcome you on board.

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ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS WORLD HERITAGE STATUS FOR CONSTANTIA WINE FARMS

Our historic and other wine farms in the Constantia Valley as well as surrounding linking areas, have now received their provisional protection as Grade 1 (National) Heritage Sites. They are therefore eligible for inclusion in a nomination process for the declaration of the Cultural Landscape of the Cape Winelands as a World Heritage Site

A workshop was held at Groot Constantia early in August at which the Inventory of Heritage Resources in the Constantia Valley was presented as a case study by Prof Fabio Todeschini. This was organized by Ms Hannetjie le Roux, Chief Director, Cultural Affairs, Western Cape Province, and a member of the South African World Heritage Convention Committee, and Dr Ron Oers, of the World Heritage Centre in Paris and co-ordinator of the Dutch Funds-in-Trust at UNESCO (who are funding the bid) did the official opening.

As members know, the CPOA funded the identification and mapping of heritage resources in the Constantia Valley by Professor Fabio Todeschini which is what he presented at the workshop. Prof Todeschini has seen the project through the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and Heritage Western Cape (HWC) and both these bodies have endorsed provisional protection for the mapped areas – some as Grade 1 National sites, some as Grade 2 Provincial sites and some as Grade 3 local authority sites.

This has been a long but rewarding process and we would like to thank Prof Todeschini for his enthusiasm and dedication to the project and also Mr John Muir for his ‘shepherding’ of it. We would also like to say ‘thank you’ to the members of the CPOA, other organisations in the Valley, the heritage officials of the City of Cape Town for their input and assistance and our two ward Councillors for financial contributions from their Ward budgets.

The full report can be found on the CPOA website: www.simonbarnett.co.za/cpoa

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PROPERTY RATES UPSET SOME….PLEASE SOME

Members who have had increases in property valuations that make no logical sense have brought these to our attention and while we want to be able to help every member, we did not think that we could act on behalf of each and every ‘bad’ valuation and subsequent rates increase. The Executive Committee therefore made the decision that we would assist by telling members how to go about objecting to their valuations and/or rates, the basis on which to object and the timeframes. We are sure that members will understand that we just do not have the capacity to take up hundreds of objections, when each case is different, needs research and is better done by the individual property owner.

However, there was good news for the farms in the Constantia Valley. Together with the Constantia Wine Route Chairperson and our two Ward Councillors, the CPOA made representations to the City for an increase in the rates rebates for farms. Not only has the basis on which farms are rated been clarified – for the better – but the Council has now given a 90% rebate on the rates farms pay for their agricultural land and associated buildings. Any hotels, restaurants or residential buildings still pay their relevant rates.

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WHEN IN DOUBT, PLEASE REFER ANY REQUEST BY A NEIGHBOUR FOR A LAND USE CHANGE TO THE CPOAs

One of the rules for getting planning approval for changes to a property is that neighbours need to sign a ‘no objection’ form. If there are no objections, the Council often does not refer applications to the CPOA and as a result we have had some very undesirable applications approved.

We understand that even if you want to object to what your neighbour wants to do, it can be difficult to say ‘no’ if your neighbours are your friends but it is in your best interests if you take the line that you would like to refer a request to the CPOA before you give approval. It is sad but true that neighbours often show misleading plans which can have an adverse effect on an area. So please consult us. It may just help you out of a difficult situation.

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NEW POLICY ON GATED, SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS

The City Council has developed a new policy for gated, security developments. The CPOA has endorsed the City’s proposals as they will greatly assist us. We believe they are not desirable in an area like ours, where the vast majority of residents want a rural character to be maintained. We don’t have a blanket opposition to gated developments. We believe they are necessary for retirement complexes, but mostly they have an adverse impact on the environment of single residential neighbourhoods.

Basically, under the City’s new proposals, gated developments will only be allowed as a ‘last resort’ and the developer would have to prove that an absolute necessity exists and that all other methods of security have been tested and found wanting. This new policy proposal is very thorough and well thought out. It has a check-list of ‘Good Practice’ guidelines for applicants which encapsulates the spirit and letter of the policy. The new policy is available on the City website: www.capetown.gov.za. under the heading ‘Gated Development’ Policy.

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NEW RULES FOR ESTATE AGENTS’ BOARDS

The many members who complain to us about unsightly estate agents’ boards, can take some heart from new rules that have been introduced. Each individual estate agent (not the agency as a whole) has to register with the City Council and is then given an allocation of six boards in total for their exclusive use. This means that if an agent has two show houses on one week-end, only three per house can be erected. This has reduced the visual clutter on our roads enormously and is therefore to be welcomed. However, we still have the problem of estate agents continuing to place their boards on scenic routes, which is not permitted. These routes include Spaanschemat River Road, Ladies Mile Extension, Constantia Main Road, Brommersvlei Road, between Constantia Main Road and Southern Cross Drive, and Rhodes Drive. Agents who transgress the rules can be reported to either the Protea Sub-Council Manager, Mr Brian Ford, at 021- 794-2493, email: brian.ford@capetown.gov.za or to Mr Selwyn Klaasen, at the South Peninsula offices at 021-701-8000 or selwyn.klaasen@capetown.gov.za

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REPORT FROM THE GREENBELTS COMMITTEE

It has been a busy year for the Friends of the Constantia Valley Greenbelts. Those who walk on our tranquil trails will appreciate how much this committee does for the Cape Town community as a whole. This committee works in a very collaborative way with residents, Council officials and Working on Water and because most projects are done on a partnership basis, they achieve a lot. Among their projects have been: new signage for trails; a massive clean-up of Wolvekloof, which took 15 days of hard work; clearing 100m of typhus from Grootboskloof and replacing it with indigenous vegetation on newly shaped banks; clearing of the Spaanschemat River greenbelt to provide safe access for walkers, joggers and horses. This trail is very wet in winter and will only be accessible this coming summer. Concerns about security led to the clearing of vegetation on the Hohenort trail, with financial assistance from a resident. Bridges have also been repaired and attention being given to vandalizied drinking fountains. Most of the work done on our unique greenbelts is funded from the very efficient re-cycling depot behind Pick ‘n Pay which is run by the Friends of the Constantia Greenbelts and residents are urged to take their bottles and newspapers there as a contribution to maintaining the trails and rivers that give us all so much pleasure.

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ALPHEN CLINIC OPEN FOR USE BY ALL

The Clinic at Alphen Centre has been privatised but the free government services which were available will continue to be supplied as before by staff sisters. Opening times are from 08:00 – 17:00. Doctors may be seen by appointment – tel 021-794-5908 – by patients who have medical aid or who pay cash.

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CPOA OBJECTS TO LIQUOR LICENCES BEING GRANTED IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS 

The Provincial Government of the Western Cape has proposed that the zoning scheme regulations be changed to allow liquor licenses to be granted for ‘house taverns’ in single residential areas. We, like the majority of residents’ associations across the City, from all income groups, have objected strongly to this. Not only do we believe that it is unnecessary, but because it would not be in the interests of residents to have ‘house taverns’ in their areas. It would not be good for family life and it would give people who have no stake in a community an opportunity to disrupt it. A list of criteria to be used in the evaluation of an application for a ‘house tavern’ was proposed, but we have opposed this because the City Council, on whom the enforcement obligation would fall, does not have the capacity to police land use contraventions.

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LONG-AWAITED ‘NUISANCE’ BY-LAW APPROVED BY CITY 

A by-law “Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Nuisances” (to give its full name) has been approved by the City of Cape Town. This has been some years in the drafting and redrafting after many challenges, but it is finally on the books and residents now have an opportunity to hold Council accountable for a range of ‘nuisances’. The by-law is too long and detailed to give all its contents in this Newsletter but it can be accessed on the City’s website www.capetown.gov.za. Many residents should do so because they will be affected by this new by-law. For example, numbers now have to be displayed on every property, rules about trees on pavements are spelt out; informal trading is dealt with and a long list of ‘prohibited behaviours’ is given.

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IMPORTANT LAND USE ITEMS: 

* Sub-Council approves ‘triangle’ structure plan: Finally, after many years of waiting, the planning instrument that will prevent commercial creep from invading residential areas around Constantia Village, has been endorsed by the Protea Sub-Council and recommended for approval by the City’s Planning and Environment Portfolio Committee. In terms of this structure plan, only a maximum of 60m² can be for ‘non-residential’ use and the operator of the business must reside on the property.

* Pot House: A notice was served on the owner of this property, on the corner of Spaanschemat River and Doordrift Roads to cease running a business without planning permission. Members will remember that there has been a long-running saga over its illegal use as well as the blight that it sheds in a very visible position at the entrance to Constantia Village. We now await the outcome of the Court case.

* Steenberg Farm workers cottages: Few can have missed the reports of an exorbitant price paid for the workers’ cottages on Steenberg Farm – R50 million – when the conditions of approval for rezoning and sub-division are so restrictive. Among these are that only the existing footprints can be used and no extension is allowed. The new owner has said in the media however that he intends converting them into ‘mansions’ costing R6 million each. Another condition is that a low-cost housing component will be required which will cater for people earning between R3 000 and R6 500 per month.

* Steenberg historic werf: The CPOA was invited to discuss a proposal by the owners of Steenberg Farm to rezone and sub-divide the historic buildings and some newer ancillary buildings around the historic werf into single, freehold residential houses. As these buildings and their environment are identified and mapped as Grade 1, National, historic resources we would not want to see them separated from their historic farmlands The motivation given for this development is that neither the hotel nor restaurant is operating at a profit. More documentation has been promised to us and a further meeting will be arranged, so we will report again in our next Newsletter. Steenberg is important to the Valley as it is one of the oldest proclaimed farms in South Africa. Its first owner, Mrs Catharina Ustings, arrived in South Africa only 10 years after Van Riebeeck. Even though in those days women had no rights before the law, she longed to own land in the Cape and eventually, in 1682 acquired ‘Swaaneweide’ (place of the feeding swans) which was later renamed Steenberg. The current historic buildings on the farm, although some alterations have since been done, were built in 1695.

* Riding for the Disabled land in Brommersvlei: We have been inundated with enquiries about the future of this site since reports appeared in newspapers about it being used for low-cost housing. Surrounding residents are naturally concerned about the impact this would have on the value of their properties. The CPOA investigated the source of the reports and established that they had emanated from an informal group established in Hout Bay to find a solution to the overcrowding and appalling conditions at Imizamo Yethu. One of the members of the group drove around Hout Bay and the Constantia Valley, made a list of ‘under-used’ and ‘un-used’ land and without checking ownership or zoning, released this list, which has no standing, to the media. The South African Riding for the Disabled, in our view, should be given a 99 year lease on this site. It is totally unacceptable that, in return for the valuable work they do for disabled children from all strata of society and all areas of Cape Town, they should be kept on a month-to-month lease. They need to expand to cater for more children on their waiting list but can not do it because their tenure is uncertain. They are after all, providing a service that should be provided by the Provincial Education Department but for which budgets are no longer made. (Are there any volunteers among our members who would take on a project to ensure a more certain future for SARDA?)

* Porter Estate: following rumours that low-cost housing would be put onto it, the future of the Porter Estate has been raised in the Provincial Parliament. The Minister of Public Works and Transport, was asked detailed questions about the future of this precious stretch of land in the Valley. In his written reply, he said that the only plan that had ever been submitted was one commissioned in 2000. This is the plan in which the CPOA played a contributing role together with other residents’ associations in the Valley. It is a good plan that respects the historic significance of the site, its uniqueness and its contribution to the beauty and character of the Valley but it has never been acted upon. An assurance has been given that if any further planning was commissioned, interested parties would have an opportunity to give their input. The previously submitted plan does cater for market and flower gardening in the area known as the Ondertuine. This precinct has rich agricultural soils and could provide homes for such farmers. The Minister confirmed that no third parties have any rights or claims to the Porter Estate.

* Constantia Village Parking: many members will have heard that proposals are under consideration by the owners to build a parking deck on the western side of the Constantia Village shopping centre. As the CPOA holds a servitude over this property we would have to be involved in any discussions. Once the rumours surfaced, our representatives who look after the servitude, discussed the matter with the owners and informed them that it was not an idea that would find any favour with us. There is no doubt that finding parking is a bone of contention with shoppers – particularly over week-ends and at month ends. However some of this is caused by the closing of Pick and Pay in Claremont which is being rebuilt and will hopefully be operating within the next two years. The number of restaurants and coffee shops which were not on the original plans also contribute to the problem.

* Kendal Road ‘Park and Ride’ site: The future of this vast, open space, that includes the garden refuse depot in one corner, still has no settled future. We know that rumours have been doing the rounds that a shopping centre will be built on it and that it has been offered to property developers for vast sums of money. But these just remain rumours. The land is owned by the City of Cape Town and there are land claims on a small portion (running diagonally across the site) that have been verified by the Land Claims Commission. However the City still has to make a final decision on the use to which the claimed area must be put in terms of the Land Restitution Act. It also has to come to a decision on the rest of the site. The garden refuse depot must stay as it provides a valuable service to residents.

* Garden refuse depot: While the service it provides is valuable, the way in which it is managed is not. The site is leased by Council to private operators. The previous lessees allowed the place to become an absolute eyesore, with litter all over the berms along Ladies Mile, discarded household items being left as visual blight, taxis parking on the pavements, vagrants taking up residence in the alien vegetation that had been allowed to grow – all this in addition to the fire hazard created by piles of garden refuse that had not been chipped and removed, as the lease required. Because of dissatisfaction with the previous lessees, Council has now let it to new management. But things are hardly better. The fire hazard remains, the litter is only infrequently cleared and the vagrants and the taxis do as they wish. The CPOA gets constant and very legitimate complaints, which we pass on to the Ward Councillor, about the untidiness and general state of the site. An amount of money has been allocated in the Ward budget to clean up and improve the appearance by planting a garden at the entrance and fixing the gates. We live in hope that the management, appearance and tidiness will improve.

* Sillery: There is still no finality on the development of this property which has been going on for the last four years. An environmental impact assessment was approved by Province, together with a site development plan and the Minister of Environment and Development Planning issued a ‘record of decision’ which included many important conditions imposed by the National Minister of Culture, Heritage Western Cape and the Environmental, Heritage and Planning sections of the Provincial Administration. One of the key decisions that had to be decided by Heritage Western Cape, on the instruction from the National Minister, was the fate of the historic furrow. The decision whether to have it excavated and open to the public was delegated to HWC. The CPOA, as is our right, wrote to the responsible Minister late last year asking her to give her reasons in writing for issuing her ‘record of decision’. She is obliged to respond to such a letter within 90 days, but it is now over 10 months later and we have not had a response. The consequence of this is that no further activity, of any kind, can take place until the Minister has given us her response.

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GETTING IN TOUCH….. 

CPOA:- 021-794-4388, copa@yebo.co.za, simonbarnett.co.za/cpoa

Ward councillors:
Neil Ross Alphen Centre 021-794-2493 or 083-628-4144
Leon van Rensburg 782-6012 or 082-872-6340

All emergencies 107 from landline or 021-424-7715 from mobile
Ambulance 10177
Alphen Clinic 021-794-5906
Building Inspector, Mr van der Skyff 021-712-4604
Burst pipes 086-010-3051
Dumping 086-010-3089
Garbage collection, Mr Springleer 021-704-1005
Fire Department 021-794-1128
Health Inspector 021-710-8078
Kendal Road dump site, Mr Isaacs 021-400-5239
Meter readings/Consumption queries 086-012-5015
Metro Police – control room 021-596-1400
Noise complaints 021-596-1999
Parks & Forests 021-791-8300
Power failure 080-022-0440
Pre-paid meter problems 086-012-5018
Street lights 086-012-5001
Roads & Drainage, Mr Oosthuizen 021-713-9500
Sewerage blockages, water leaks & supply failure 086-010-3054

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