Upset over proposed housing development

The walkway next to the Diep River Community Clinic going under De Waal bridge.

Residents are annoyed that the deadline for objections to a proposed housing development was Thursday February 1.

Sean Tyler, who lives across the railway line, said residents were only made aware of plans to build a middle income housing development on Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) land two months before the deadline.

Residents feel it was bad timing as it coincided with the festive season.

In October, Prasa applied to the City of Cape Town for the land to be rezoned to create low-cost housing and a small scale commercial space. In the application, Prasa said they wish to dispose of a currently underutilised portion of erven 79204 and 79208, Diep River, (the property), for residential and small-scale commercial activities. If granted permission, the land will be home to a three- to four-storey building, a business and 73 parking bays.

“No changes to the current railway infrastructure are proposed. Although the total area of the property is greater than 10 000m², only two portions of the property are to be rezoned, which do not exceed 10 000m². Portion 1 is situated on the east side of the railway line, bordered by Massinger Road and Avondale Terrace. Portions 2 and 3 are north of De Waal Road. Portion 4 to the south of De Waal Road faces onto the railway station and its parking area, next to two double-storey blocks of flats. Portions 2, 3 and 4 are within two blocks from the Main Road with 2 and 3 facing onto the railway on the east side and onto the derelict Central Primary School “does not appear to be in use currently,” the application states.

“The Railway Housing date from the 1960’s through to the 1970’s and none have been identified as having heritage significance,” the application says.

One of the residents has lived in one of the 13 houses marked for demolition, of which 12 are occupied, for 28 years. He worked for Prasa until 2012 when he retired. Over this time he has attempted to buy the house from Prasa but was told the erf goes across the railway line. About six years ago he heard “whispers” about the possibility of development and then saw notices attached to buildings and sent his comments.

He and other tenants, one has lived there for 30 years, have received no notification to move from the house. He, his wife, son and mother-in-law have nowhere to go. “We’d have to live in a tin shanty,” he said.

He is confused that the local Prasa office have no idea what is going on and are renovating the house next to the station. “They say they’ve been inundated with calls about the development,” he said.

Kaparo Molefi, regional manager for Prasa Cres (Corporate Real Estate Solutions) Western Cape, said all the residential houses at Diep River station will be affected by the proposed development and all affected tenants will receive notices as soon as all the processes had been completed and there is definite timelines for the development.

Mr Molefi said Prasa’s properties, especially houses, are subjected to severe vandalism and puts pressure on the limited funding to keep them in “leasing lettable” condition.

A prospective tenant raised interest to occupy the vacant house at the station and is doing general cleaning work with full knowledge of the current development.

This work is taken place at no cost to Prasa. Mr Molefi does not know how many objections have been received or when the processes will be completed.

When the Bulletin asked residents to comment they were reluctant to provide their names. Mark Leslie, who has lived in Schaay Road for 25 years, said residents’ reticence is fear that property values will drop.

He has commented on the proposed development. His main concern is traffic in the short cul-de-sac what with the clinic, Plumstead Electrical parking for 50 vehicles, Glenbridge School and if the derelict school is taken over by South Peninsula High. “The development will mean 60 extra cars. There’s no way there can be two-way traffic what with (all this),” said Mr Leslie.

He said plans describe “walking along a leafy lane to the station”, meaning the alley running alongside his property and next to the community clinic.

Taking the Bulletin there, he described how walls are usually marked by faeces with piles of litter. A couple had set up home under De Waal Road bridge and were making a fire.

In email correspondence, a City of Cape Town health official states that “Cleansing are not able to clean this area effectively or as frequently as required … the tank cannot gain access. All the lamp posts have been srtipped and are not working. The litter ends up in Glenbridge School… the principal has expressed frustration … I doubt Water Pollution Control can be too pleased with the faeces getting into the stormwater system. The only solution is to close the walkway”.

Denville Dawson, principal of Glenbridge School, said while there is a shortage of housing, more thought should go into providing houses in well established areas. “Increased traffic around Schaay Road will pose a direct threat to the safety of our learners who are using public transport.Our learners suffer from intellectual impairment and have difficulty with decision – making. Traffic congestion is already exacerbated by vehicles accessing the school, the clinic and the businesses in the area and could lead to a disastrous outcome,” said Mr Dawson.

Another concern is increased noise levels. “Our learners suffering from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit disorder, with hyperactivity, has difficulty with excessive noise. ASD learners have a sensory diet which, if not managed, could result in them experiencing meltdowns because of the noise. This makes it nearly impossible for educators to work with them,” said Mr Dawson.

Increased pedestrian traffic around the school could pose a risk to pupils who cannot identify strangers and stranger danger. “Our school has experienced countless break-ins and vandalism over the past few years. An increase in population around the school, could potentially result in an increase in crime, leaving an already cash-strapped organisation vulnerable to a huge financial burden,” said Mr Dawson.

Mr Tyler said there is an action group but as with plans to develop the historic the Waterford farm that was thwarted in 2014 (“Plan for historic Waterford Farm approved”, Bulletin March 27, 2014), in Massinger Road, the group is fragmented.

On February 3 a media enquiry was sent to Prasa. Mr Molefi acknowledged receipt by email and by phone on Monday February 5 but did not send a response by the time this edition went to print.