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Thursday Jan 23, 2014

Opposition to Somerset West housing estate plan

Property developers are planning to build an upmarket housing estate and a huge private school of more than 1 800 pupils near Somerset West - outside the urban edge.

The entrance to Hathersage.

The proposed development, with 153 upmarket houses, is planned for the foothills of the Schapenberg between the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg mountain ranges, near Vergelegen and Morgenster wine estates.

The 52ha development on the Hathersage farm will straddle the Lourens River, which is protected as the Lourens River Protected Natural Environment. The developers call the housing section an 'upmarket lifestyle estate'.

This is yet another development planned to be built outside the urban edge, the line defined in the City Council's spatial development framework to contain urban sprawl, to keep the costs of services down, to protect sensitive natural environments and to prevent valuable agricultural land from being covered in concrete.

The land is zoned as agricultural and much of it is currently under deciduous fruit and grapes.

The draft scoping report, the first stage of the environmental impact assessment, says because the Lourens River and a tributary meander through the farmland, it is assumed there will be some wetlands on the site, which specialist studies will have to confirm.

Gavin Smith, of the Greater Cape Town Alliance, an umbrella body of several civic and environmental organisations, said the body was opposed to Hathersage.

'This is yet another proposal outside the urban edge. The whole point of having the urban edge in the spatial development framework is to prevent this sort of thing, having urbanisation take up agricultural land. It will straddle the Lourens River, which is the only river in the whole of South Africa that is protected as a natural environment,' Smith said.

What he fears is that the City Council has a 'disposition' to change the urban edge in a piecemeal fashion to allow developments on farmland.

'Already there are huge swathes of agricultural land in the Helderberg region that have been incorporated inside the urban edge, for instance the land from Sir Lowry's Pass road and Gordon's Bay. Now that they've got all this agricultural land inside the urban edge, but it's lying fallow. They should use that.'

As well as the housing and the primary and high schools, there will be underground pipelines, roads, flood alleviation structures and a bridge over the river connecting the two parts of the development.

'A school with 1 850 pupils is big, and there'e going to be a thousand soccer moms driving up and down every day. That is a lot of traffic.'

Smith said because the provincial Land Use Planning Ordinance was to be replaced, there should be a moratorium on all non-essential development in Cape Town until the new legislation was in place.

This month MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell turned down the application to change the urban edge to allow housing in the Philippi Horticultural Area, but approved the application to change the urban edge to pave the way for the massive 'mini city' Wescape development on the West Coast.

Cape Times


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