Hands off our park, residents tell City

A Constantia community has been galvanised into action after learning of City plans to develop Nirvana Park.

The large public open space is bordered by Constantia Village to the north.

Lorraine Conway, who lives near the park, read about the proposed plan to develop half of it in the draft spatial development framework (SDF) for eight planning districts across Cape Town. She is not the only person who will be commenting before Friday June 4.

On Tuesday May 3, the City hosted an online public meeting to share its “wish list” for the southern planning district, an area that runs from Mowbray to Cape Point, from the M5 to Hout Bay. It was attended by about 20 residents who had a chance to question City planning officials.

The SDF comes up for review every ten years. Essentially it sketches how future developments will shape communities.

Apart from Nirvana Park, other planning proposals include land under dispute for land claims, the South African Riding for the Disabled Association in Brommersvlei Road, vacant land on the corner of Ladies Mile and Spaanschemat River Road, the Porter Estate, Moquet Farm in Diep River, Firgrove Way in Tokai, Pollsmoor Prison and The Vines in Constantia.

Carolynne Franklin, of the Kirstenhof and Environs Residents’ Association, asked for clarity on minimum property sizes allowed, more specifically regarding vacant properties being sold for development. Kier Hennessy, the City’s principal planning professional, said higher levels of transport access equated to higher density.

Caroline Powell asked for advice on navigating the hefty SDF plans. Mr Hennessy said volume two was a technical report on key areas. But it was chapters 3 and 4, about eight pages, which were most relevant to the southern district. “A lot of it is refinement of what was approved in 2012,” he said.

Mr Hennessy said the main densification was along the Main Road corridor with its access to public transport. “We hope that rail will sort itself out,” he said.

He added: “In the draft, we acknowledge restitution sites and address the wider range of living opportunities for police, nurses, teachers who have been driven out because they cannot afford to buy properties. There is a drive for inclusionary accommodation where the city is leveraging redevelopment to allow five-storeys but with two [storeys] for lower-income. As opposed to the past with a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Regarding public open space, Mr Hennessy said some areas had an excess across the city. “We must consider densifying the city. Properties are becoming smaller and gardens, therefore public open space is more important and the funds going into looking after them,” he said. Keurbooms Park in Newlands was an example. “It was once a dump and is now what can be seen in New York and London,” said Mr Hennessy.

He stressed the need for the city to stop growing outwards and densify more efficiently. “But we are not in a one-size-fits-all city, unlike Hong Kong.”

Maciej Soltynski was at the meeting and is not happy with the trend to densification. “I bought my property with the expectation that the surrounding properties would be single-storey structures to conform to the general ambience of the suburb I live in. Now, because of the City, this is no longer the case,” he said.

Harry Cowley, chairperson of the Constantia Hills Residents’ Association, joined one of the online meetings. He said the only “wish list” land identified by the City for development in the Constantia Hills area was the open space on the corner of Spaanschemat River Road and Firgrove Way. “This land is presently under management of the provincial government. Until such time as the situation changes, we cannot comment.“

Mark Schäfer, chairman of Bergvliet – Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association, said they were still digesting the draft.

“It is a massive document filled with jargon and technical terminology. We hope to be able to submit a sensible and reasoned comment. As usual with the City public participation attempts, the deadlines are too short. They assume the public has the technical nous and time to process what is a complicated document that professionally qualified officials have taken months to put together. There was a suggestion that there would be individual engagement with representative bodies in the future – it would be nice if that could be part of the process now.”

The Tokai Residents’ Association said they had perused the draft policy and identified certain areas that required further investigation before preparing their comment for our deadline.

At Nirvana Park, the Bulletin heard from people who said they came from all over the city to walk their dogs, picnic, host parties and watch their children play.

Christopher Brookin, an animal behaviourist, who uses the park, said people socialised their dogs in the fresh air. “They come from Llandudno and Cape Point to Kenilworth and Camps Bay. Dogs on leash makes them unsociable. The forest and greenbelts are too crowded and there have been incidents with children and horses,” said Mr Brooklin.

Caroline Chaplin said there were few places left in Claremont to walk her rescue dog. Newlands was not safe but Nirvana was large and safe.

The draft framework and supporting presentation are also available for download from the City’s website.

Nirvana Park is well used and safe, say residents.

Lorraine Conway, David Broad and Wendy van Dorsten have galvanised people to action over Nirvana Park.
The City has plans to develop half of Nirvana Park.