The CRRA Executive Committee has given careful consideration to this important application.
As you know, your Association represents a large number of property owners in Constantia, has a compelling interest in the conservation of the dominant rural character of the Constantia-Tokai Valley and has a mandate to fulfil in this regard. The CRRA has submitted its comment to the City of Cape Town on this application.
The following is a summary of the CRRA’s comments:
At the outset, the CRRA stated it’s support for the long overdue restitution of the subject site to its rightful owners, the Solomon families (the owners). Also, that the CRRA supports the owners’ endeavours to obtain enhanced use rights, as land restitution would have no benefit or meaning if the land could not be developed.
The CRRA agreed that the owners have the right to make application for the development of the land “to its full potential subject to compliance with the relevant legislation” and in compliance with the normal legal processes, as provided for in the land restitution settlement deed.
It is clear that the urban context has changed from its rural nature in the 1960s and the re-instatement of the historic farming and trading rights would not reflect the current reality. The site is located within the Urban Edge and clearly has some potential for infill development.
It is however in the understanding of “full potential” of the site that there is a divergence between the current redevelopment model of the owners and what we consider to be a sustainable and appropriate proposal for this site and the greater area.
The City’s planning policies, which have been developed over many years and through wide public consultation apply to all its citizens, no matter who the land owner is or how the land was obtained.
Firstly the CRRA examined the consistency with City of Cape Town policy.
(words in italics are extracts of City policy and bold is our response)
As acknowledged in the application submitted, the development proposal does not comply with the City of Cape’s Town’s Southern District Spatial Development Plan, approved in 2012. This plan has identified the subject site for “New Urban Infill” and for “Potential Medium-Density Development” and “Inclusionary Housing”, which caters for a wider range of income groups.
The development proposal submitted, which is for a mono-functional, regional shopping mall, does not comply with City’s vision of residential infill development in any way.
The Development Guidelines include that
“5. No expansion in the extent of existing commercial areas should be permitted and no further regional shopping centres should be permitted.”
The development proposal is in direct conflict with this guideline.
“8. The inclusion of restitution claimants, and also residential infill, including some inclusionary housing, on identified strategic residential infill sites must respect sense of place, scenic viewsheds (e.g. from scenic drives), character (including tree coverage etc.), and environmentally sensitive areas, as well as integration with surrounding residential areas (e.g. accommodating socio-economic gradient).”
The development proposal is not in compliance with this guideline. The proposed mono-functional ‘big-box retail’, does not respect the unique sense of place of Constantia, which is characterised by fine-grained development, scenic viewsheds, character (including tree coverage) and no effort is made to integrate it with the surrounding residential areas.
Cognisance must also be taken of the Council-approved Cape Town Densification Policy of 2012, which promotes a more sustainable urban form and densification in all areas, so as to achieve a minimum, average gross base density of 25 dwelling units/ha in the next 20 – 30 years. The subject site is a unique opportunity for densification.
The development proposal in its current form makes no contribution to densification.
Then the CRRA looked at the desirability and effects of the proposal
When weighed up against the criteria set out in Section 99(3) of the City’s Municipal Planning By-law, the proposal in its current form fails to satisfy a number of these criteria for desirability, being:
The proposed ad hoc commercial development, which has no residential component, is not integrated into the urban fabric of Constantia and will make a negligible contribution to social integration.
While some employment will be created, the economic advantages of the development, which will primarily benefit the property owners and the anchor tenant and not the greater community, are considered to be outweighed by the negative impacts of the development and the loss of an opportunity for inclusive development.
Compatibility with surrounding uses
The CRRA disagrees with the assertion that the design will be “complimenting the profile of the surrounding residential area and its environmental appearance”. There is no development in the surrounding residential area that is the same scale and height of nearly 15 metres, which is the equivalent of approximately 5 storeys.
The development proposal does not respond “positively and sympathetically to its surrounding context” and as an isolated shopping mall, makes no effort to integrate into the residential neighbourhoods to the north and west.
Impact on safety, health and wellbeing of the surrounding community
While the current degraded landscape is recognised, the proposed shopping mall will in our view do very little for the wellbeing of the surrounding community of Constantia and will not “contribute positively to Constantia’s sense of place” as claimed.
As a regional retail centre, which will be destination-based, rather than convenience-based, the increase in traffic and disruption to traffic flows in the greater area are considered to compromise, rather than improve traffic safety. In our view, the surveillance created by medium density residential development is superior to that of an isolated shopping centre.
Impact on heritage
The CRRA considers the development of a large scale retail centre, with a vast parking area to pay very little respect to the site’s history as smallholdings with small-scale processing and trading facilities and its former fine-grained built form, as can be seen on the historic aerial photographs.
Traffic impacts, parking, access and other transport related considerations
The CRRA examined the Traffic Impact Assessment and noted that the site will be accessed via a new traffic circle at the current Ladies Mile Road / Spaanschemat River Road intersection. While possible future access points have been indicated on Kendal Road, Spaanschemat River Road and Ladies Mile Road, these will only cater for future development. The current development proposal is however accessed only via the new traffic circle and the CRRA is not convinced that a shopping centre of this scale can be accessed via a single access point without any alternative exit points and without creating congestion during peak times.
The CRRA concluded that the current application does not comply with the City’s own planning policies for the area and does not satisfy the desirability criteria listed in Section 99(3) of the City’s Municipal Planning By-law. The potential negative impacts on the character of the area and on traffic flows and safety are considered to outweigh any economic benefits that it may bring.
The matter at hand is not whether or not Constantia needs another retail development or who the anchor tenant is. It is whether the development is contextually appropriate and whether it complies with the City’s planning policies for the area. The current proposal does neither and ‘puts the cart before the horse’ by focusing on the immediate financial yields of an over-scaled retail centre, developed in isolation, while information on the development of the greater site is still lacking.
The CRRA therefore urges the owners not to look at the subject site in isolation and to reconsider their development model, rather looking at a scaled-down, retail development, which is planned in conjunction with a new residential neighbourhood which it would serve.
In the CRRA’s view, an integrated development framework for the full landholdings, or at least for the entire 6,3ha site to the west of the M3, with associated specialist studies, is an imperative.
This large, vacant site presents a unique opportunity for the establishment of a quality new neighbourhood, accommodating a range of housing types and associated uses, including convenience retail, restaurants and open spaces.
Finally, the CRRA invited further engagement with the owners and their professional team to arrive at a development proposal that benefits all.