Princess Vlei mall gets nod from province
The Western Cape has given the clearance needed for a 9 000m2 shopping complex to be built on the shores of Princess Vlei, and all that appears to be preventing the development is the city of Cape Town's unwillingness to rezone the land.
The development has met with strong opposition from environmental lobby groups and residents of the neighbouring working-class suburbs who use the green area for picnics, baptisms and recreation.
The development of the land, which is of historical significance to the Khoisan and in the Cape Flats fynbos biome - one of the most critically endangered fynbos biomes - has been in the offing since Insight Property Developers initially tried to buy it from the city in 1998.
Fourteen years later, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning is "doing crosschecks and balances to see if what the developer is doing is within the term s of the Environmental Management Plan", according to Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell's spokesperson Aziel Gangerdine.
"After checks and balances, the developer is free to start his development," said Gangerdine, who added that the process would take about three months.
But there has been resistance from the city's side.
Chairman of the city's Spatial Planning, Environment and Land Use Management Committee, Christo Kannenberg, said the city had in fact made a recommendation that the rezoning application put through by the developer should not be approved.
However, he said the provincial government sent the application back to the city in order for conditions to be proposed for its approval. He said the conditions were set and the matter was sent back to the province three weeks ago.
Kannenberg said the committee turned down the application because city officials dealing with the issue came out with negative comments regarding the rezoning. Gangerdine confirmed that his department had received the city's conditions of approval and was checking to see if what the developer planned was in line with their Environmental Management Plan. If people were not happy with Bredell's Record of Decision they could apply to the Western Cape High Court to halt the development.
Litigation may be the route taken by the Cape Flats Wetland Forum, with chairman Kelvin Cochrane saying they will fight the approval of the shopping centre "with all means".
"We definitely feel that the vlei needs to be rehabilitated, we don't want the mall," said Cochrane. It was "unwise" to rezone the land to build a shopping centre, said Philip Bam, the deputy chairman of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance. "It (the Princess Vlei) has very important cultural heritage value for the Khoisan people. You can't do anything on that land without making sure that the culture of the first nation is respected," said Bam.
An ecologist working for the SA National Biodiversity Institute, George Davis, said a big building on the shores of the Princess Vlei would impact negatively on the eco-system as contaminated run-off water would be generated which would flow into the vlei.
Davis said: "The green spaces are important for mental well-being. We should not be building on open spaces, especially in high density areas, without very special consideration."
To preserve Princess Vlei, the institute, together with the Cape Flats Wetland Forum, implemented a programme four years ago where a lot of indigenous plants were planted. He said the question should be about what could be done to restore the ecological system.