Fight for suburbs needs support, says civic leader

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, seen here with former Cape Town mayor Gordon Oliver at the Bergvliet Meadowridge Ratepayer’s Association’s AGM, says the City is accelerating basic infrastructure spending to accommodate a rapidly growing population.

The fight to defend the character of the suburbs from the City’s push for densification will need a lot more effort and support from those who live in them, says Mark Schäfer, the chairman of the Bergvliet Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association.

He was speaking, last Thursday, at the Bergvliet Primary School, where the association held its annual general meeting and marked the 75th anniversary of its founding.

At the meeting, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis spoke about the City’s accelerated spending on basic infrastructure, which he hopes will turn Cape Town into a beacon of hope for the rest of the country and end load shedding in the city in the next three years.

A detailed display by Winnie Craythorne, one of the association’s members, outlined the history of Bergvliet and Meadowridge and the association’s contribution to the area. It noted that the Bergvliet Civic Association, founded in 1947, and the Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association, formed in 1955, merged in 1968 to form the Bergvliet Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association.

Mr Schäfer said the association had lasted 75 years because of dedicated residents who had taken ownership of their community and worked hard “to make the environment in which they lived one of which they could be proud”.

He cautioned though that despite the neighbourhood becoming an increasingly desirable place to live, it had become harder for the association to “convince residents that to preserve the environment in which they live, natural and built, takes effort and support from those who live in it and benefit from it. Our collective voice needs to be heard by decision-makers”.

And the association needed greater support from the community to deal with the threats posed by densification, he said.

“The need to actively protect the character and nature of our suburbs, and lifestyle has increased, as there is ongoing pressure to densify and intensify residential areas in the city,” said Mr Schäfer.

Ms Craythorne’s display noted that the association had been pushing since 1994 for a “local structure plan” for the area, which would establish overlay zones to “protect the environmental nature of our ‘green-lung’ area, with a view to combating climate change and preserving the character and way of life of our suburbs.” It added: “Development needs to be area-appropriate.”

Mr Hill-Lewis said Cape Town was growing rapidly and the pace of that growth was likely to accelerate.

“In the past year, 108 000 people have moved to Cape Town. This is five times the population of Bergvliet and Meadowridge,” he said, adding that spending on basic services had sped up to meet that growth and address, among other things, load shedding, public safety and transport.

“Our infrastructure is under pressure, our roads are under pressure, our sewer system is under pressure, and that is all aside from the incredible growth in population in our city. And a failure over many years to keep up with infrastructure investments that match that growth curve.

”We are really pushing down pretty hard on the accelerator pedal on basic infrastructure spending.”

Tackling load shedding, he said, was a priority. “By the 1st of February we already had our first major tender out for the procurement of renewable power, independent power off the Eskom grid – 200 megawatts at first, 500MW coming up soon, a storage tender coming in January. We changed our policy on paying for embedded solar power. We now pay cash to commercial customers who send us the excess energy they produce. Very soon, when that system gets going, we will do that for residential customers if you have a solar investment.”

Meanwhile, the Berg River-Voëlvlei Augmentation Scheme, which would provide another 40 million litres of water per day to Cape Town, had been approved during a council meeting earlier that day, he said.

“The City of Cape Town is funding the scheme in full, to the tune of about R2.3 billion over the course of that project. So we are making those necessary investments to secure our water supply to secure fresh water to all of our residents and then of course to make sure our sewer systems can cope with the pressure on them.”

The City was also spending on more Metro police, traffic and law enforcement officers as well as on anti-crime technology, including body cameras for all City officers, he said.

Councillor Eddie Andrews, middle, with Bergvliet residents and committee members of the Bergvliet Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association.
A detailed display by Winnie Craythorne, one of the association’s members, outlined the history of Bergvliet and Meadowridge and the association’s contribution to the area.