Some say the de­vel­op­ment, 24km from Cape Town city cen­tre, should be placed where al­ready ex­ists

CityPress - - Busi­ness - ALDI SCHOE­MAN busi­ness@city­press.co.za

On pa­per, the Wescape ur­ban de­vel­op­ment looks like a so­lu­tion to sev­eral of Cape Town’s prob­lems.

It is a brand new city for both rich and poor. There’ll be houses, places to work, schools, hos­pi­tals and a univer­sity.

Not every­one, though, is buy­ing into the utopia that the pri­vate de­vel­oper, com­mu­niT­grow, is en­vi­sion­ing.

Rather than build­ing a new city, empty land in Cape Town should be de­vel­oped, says Gavin Sil­ber, a city plan­ner with Nd­i­funa Uk­wazi, a grass-roots or­gan­i­sa­tion that cam­paigns for “ur­ban jus­tice” in Cape Town.

“It’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to stim­u­late an econ­omy in the mid­dle of nowhere. We should rather de­velop where eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity is al­ready present,” he says.

Plans for the Wescape de­vel­op­ment, which will be sit­u­ated about 24km from the Cape Town city cen­tre, are ad­vanc­ing rapidly.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact study is be­ing done and the com­pany is also pre­par­ing its re­zon­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, says Gita Goven, chair­per­son of com­mu­niT­grow.

The ap­pli­ca­tion to have the city border ex­tended was ap­proved in 2013 by An­ton Bre­dell, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter in the Western Cape.

The city will be de­vel­oped over a pe­riod of 20 years and will even­tu­ally con­sist of 200 000 houses for 800 000 res­i­dents.

The idea is that peo­ple won’t have to travel far to go to work be­cause 300 000 job op­por­tu­ni­ties will be of­fered within the new city.

Wescape’s de­vel­op­ers say it will be an in­te­grated city, with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent in­come groups and var­i­ous so­cio­cul­tural back­grounds.

Op­po­nents of the project say the plan is ex­actly the op­po­site of what is ac­cepted as the best prin­ci­ples for the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­te­grated city.

Sil­ber says chances are good that Wescape will at­tract only peo­ple who can­not af­ford to live closer to Cape Town it­self, so, just like dur­ing apartheid, it will be­come a sub­urb where poor coloured and black peo­ple live.

Ac­cord­ing to Sil­ber, the so­lu­tion is rather that res­i­dents in the city cen­tre and sur­rounds live closer to each other, and that gov­ern­ment makes avail­able more sub­sidised rental homes.

Open land is avail­able in District Six, where the Athlone Power Sta­tion used to be, and in Sea Point, he says.

Ac­cord­ing to the time­line on Wescape’s web­site, the city will be de­vel­oped in stages, start­ing with con­struc­tion, light in­dus­try and man­u­fac­tur­ing, then re­tail­ers and ser­vices will be added, fol­lowed by tech­nol­ogy and de­sign cen­tres. The hope is that the funds needed to build the city will be pro­vided by pri­vate in­vestors.

Wescape is seen as a pi­lot project, af­ter which sim­i­lar cities could be built across Africa.

Vanessa Wat­son, pro­fes­sor of city plan­ning in the School of Ar­chi­tec­ture, Plan­ning and Geo­mat­ics at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, is one of five aca­demics who warned in 2014, shortly af­ter the city’s border was ex­panded, that Cape Town’s de­vel­op­ment was re­sult­ing in too much ur­ban sprawl.

She says time that peo­ple could be spend­ing pro­duc­tively has been lost be­cause of the amount of trav­el­ling they do to get to and from work.

The sprawl has also had an ef­fect on house­hold bud­gets and in­vest­ment in ser­vice de­liv­ery. And it has neg­a­tive eco­log­i­cal con­se­quences such as air pol­lu­tion, the aca­demics wrote in a let­ter to Western Cape Premier He­len Zille.

“Ur­ban ar­eas are com­plex: they can­not be planned com­pletely,” reads the let­ter.

“The fu­ture rather lies in smaller pro­jects of high qual­ity on strate­gic land in­side the city borders”, which will each con­trib­ute to mak­ing the city do bet­ter, they say.

Jo­han van der Merwe, Cape Town may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for en­ergy, en­vi­ron­men­tal and spa­tial plan­ning, says the city has yet to re­ceive an ap­pli­ca­tion for the de­vel­op­ment of the land.

It has also not re­ceived an ap­pli­ca­tion for an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact study. A com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion process will fol­low, should ap­pli­ca­tions be re­ceived, he says.

An­other may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber, Bene­dicta van Min­nen for hu­man set­tle­ments, says the city can­not rely solely on the “old model” of gov­ern­ment sup­ply­ing houses.

“We have to work with the pri­vate sec­tor, civil as­so­ci­a­tions, res­i­dents and their em­ploy­ers to pro­vide hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to Van Min­nen, there are about 300 000 peo­ple on the city’s hous­ing wait­ing list.

Goven de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions, say­ing more de­tails would only be avail­able when the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact study and the ap­pli­ca­tion for re­zon­ing were ready.

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