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Monday May 21, 2012

Department defends plan for Cape Town vlei

Those raising concerns about the proposal to build a shopping centre at Princess Vlei have good intentions, but they must understand the purpose of planning and sustainable development for all.

This graphic shows where the proposed shopping centre will be built.

So says Aziel Gangerdine, spokesman for the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, in a letter to the Cape Times.

But the Princess Vlei Forum, set up earlier this month to oppose the proposed development, says residents have not been asked what development they would like on the land.

The MEC for Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, has given the green light for the shopping complex to be built on the shores of the vlei.

The development has encountered strong opposition from environmental lobby groups and residents of the neighbouring working-class suburbs, who use the green area for picnics, baptisms and recreation. It has also been stalled by the city council's refusal to rezone the land.

Gangerdine said that every proposed development, once constructed, came with the promise of socio-economic benefits that should define the principles of sustainable development.

He said it had been argued that there was no certain measure of the job opportunities and other benefits to the surrounding community.

"Responses to the concerns indicate that the shopping centre will occupy only an estimated 4 percent of the entire area of the Princess Vlei park.

"One can also not ignore the promise that the infrastructure, once complete, will improve surveillance, security and public facilities on the site, to encourage the community to make use of the property surroundings."

Gangerdine wrote that a biophysical study had shown much of the site was degraded and the wetlands on the properties were not of particular botanical importance, although they were of "high conservation-worthiness".

Mea Lashbrooke, spokeswoman for the Princess Vlei Forum, said that residents were feeling desperate "in response to the threat of what is seen as inappropriate commercial development".

"People in the vicinity feel betrayed and angry. For long enough their needs have not been met and at no time have they been surveyed to establish what form of development is needed."

Kelvin Cochrane, who has lived on the vlei for more than 35 years, has spearheaded for the past three years an alternative project called "Dressing the Princess", which aims to rehabilitate the Sand Plain Fynbos near the shores of the vlei.

"A double-volume mall, a car park for close on 600 cars, plus a taxi rank, all of which will cover 9 000 square metres close to the vlei, is unacceptable to a people who have been marginalised historically," Cochrane said.

"It is time to restore dignity to the Princess and to the people who enjoy what she offers."

Cochrane said a braai area, craft market and concert area were being planned for the vlei.

He said he had no doubt that these alternative plans would revitalise the area in a way that would be impossible if a mall was built.

Philip Bam, chairman of the Lotus River, Ottery, Grassy Park Ratepayers and Residents Association, said: "With our city becoming more congested, the people of Grassy Park, Retreat, Parkwood Estate and Lavender Hill find solace in this green lung where we can escape the noise and air pollution and renew our energy."

The Cape Times

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