Hangberg: unauthorized shacks on fire-break

Comments by the Residents’ Association on the draft Basic Assessment Report (dBAR) on the proposed in situ Upgrade (including Bulk Services) for the existing Hangberg Settlement on Erf 1860, 2844 and 0000-5, Hout Bay, W.Cape (Excerpt)

1. Context of the site under consideration

Our Association needs to state, up front, that the site under consideration is clearly not suitable for conventional hard development and, from this perspective, we cannot support the proposal as it is not consistent with official policies that normally inform development activity. The proposal is also not consistent with our Association’s own policies (regarding development) which, in turn, are largely based on relevant legislation and official policies.

Notwithstanding this, it seems that social considerations are driving the project as the site is already occupied by informal shacks and the City (the applicant) is loath to move the occupants for various reasons. It is our understanding that that the Province is likely to show / has already shown some sympathy for this situation.

Therefore, we believe that if the Province (the decision-maker), in its wisdom, decides to allow the project to go ahead (in spite of the limitation of the site and the dubious precedent that is sets), it will need to be very mindful of exactly what it is doing, and that it must take responsibility for this by setting suitable conditions which will act to minimize negative consequences and be sure that this is a one-off exception and, thereby, not set an unfortunate precedent.

Particular attention needs to be paid to this by the officials who draft the final Record of Decision.

2. Uncertainty regarding the form of the development that is being applied for, and implications thereof

The draft Basic Assessment Report (dBAR) and its appendices describe various ways to upgrade the existing informal settlement area and summarizes what is envisaged (somewhat vaguely) as an ‘incremental upgrade and formalization’. Provision is made for approx. 302 housing units, which is slightly more than is required right now While we realize that, in this Basic Assessment process, it has been necessary to investigate various ways of achieving objectives, at this stage we believe that it is necessary to clarify more exactly what form this ‘upgrading’ will take, particularly with respect to the type of dwelling structures envisaged.

This is of particular relevance because the authorities (and the interested and affected parties) need to know more exactly what type of development they are assessing and how it will fit into the ‘receiving environment’.

3. Containment of the Settlement

The application is, in effect, a retrospective approval of irregular residential development of which our Association is not supportive. However, under the particular circumstances, we recognize the critical housing shortage of accommodation in the Hangberg Village and the need to upgrade the area generally. We also acknowledge the fact that the spread of ‘bungalows’ has largely been contained and has been quite well regulated, it seems, by the local residents themselves in combination with the City authorities. Such co-operative action is supported, and is an essential to the success of this sort of project, should it go ahead.

Should the project be approved, a condition of approval should be the requirement for a binding agreement between the City, the beneficiaries of the project and the local community to the effect that further spread will not be tolerated, that law enforcement will act immediately should a transgression occur, and that the community will support such action. This should be overseen by the Provincial Administration although implementation should be done by the City. If possible there should be some sort of penalty for lack of action, and this should be imposed by the Province.

We cannot afford this lack of action from Law Enforcement. Therefore, we propose that the Provincial Administration, as a condition of approval, devise a mechanism whereby the City be penalised should encroachment occur and no action is timeously taken.

4. SANParks:

We note that SANParks has agreed to cede some of its land so as to enable this project to go ahead and that preliminary agreements have been reached in this regard, so that the Sewage Works and the Fire-Break are excluded from the Park and are the responsibility of the City. The fire-break must be properly managed and no structures allowed on it.

It is not clear where the actions resulting from the discussions and agreements reached with SANParks, have been completed. Clarity is needed here, and it is important the actions are properly followed through with, and not left undone, as sometimes happens with government departments. No one is checking on them.

5. Urban Edge:

We note that the City has in fact made allowance for the adjustment of the Urban Edge in this area. We believe that if the Province decides to support of this project, its support must be conditional on strict adherence to the new urban edge that this application has delineated.

Further creep into the adjacent mountain land must be vigorously resisted by the City (and the community). Ways of doing this (e.g. as suggested above) need to be decided on before formal approval, with regular monitoring by the authorities (supported by the community) being part of the conditions of approval. These mechanisms need to be put in place before approval so as to allow swift reaction in the instance of shack erections so that the transgressors are brought to book immediately.

We suggest that the urban edge be fenced but with pedestrian accesses to enable walkers to continue utilizing the mountain as a recreational facility, without inconveniencing them. The fencing should be visually permeable and/or covered in appropriate vegetation to as to minimize the visual impact of the development not only from below (or from Chapman’s Peak Drive) but also from above. The views (and ‘sense of place’) of people hiking on Hangberg (including The Sentinel), Karbonkelberg (including Kaptein’s Peak and other peaklets) and in the mountain across the valley (although these will not be so marked, being further away) need to be considered and accommodated.

The many pathways also need to be reduced and kept in better condition. It appears that the plan is to do this.

6. Parking/Roads:

We note that no provision has been made for parking, and believe this is a short-coming. Provision should be made lower down.

We do not support the suggestion that the proposed outer road (for fire and maintenance) should be used for small cars as is suggested somewhere in the report. This will inevitably lead to abuse and encourage others to invade the land beyond the settlement. This should be anticipated and avoided. In fact, it might be better not to have a road at all, as it could also act as a convenient platform for squatting – exactly what needs to be avoided. These comments need to be carefully and realistically considered and implemented where appropriate.

7. Resource usage and environmentally-friendly design:

We note that the consult has recommended that resource efficiency and environmentally-friendly design be incorporated into the design and implementation of the project. This is in line with current policies and is welcomed. It needs to be followed up and monitored to make sure that measures are in fact implemented.

8. Environmental Management Plan (EMP):

We note that quite a comprehensive EMP has been included, and should be implemented.

9. Further Mitigating Conditions

Should this project be approved in some form, mitigating conditions need to be adopted and entrenched in the approval, with a funded mechanism for monitoring and law enforcement which will ensure that the conditions are in fact complied with. This is particularly important because it is our experience that, quite often, sensible conditions are imposed on approval of an application, but unfortunately there is no follow-up to make sure that they are complied with, and, even when deviations are reported, no action is taken by the relevant officials.

The inherent unsuitability of the site and substrate (sandy, erosive, too steep) and the fact that the site is adjacent to land that is reserved for the conservation of valuable natural mountain environment (TMNP) needs to be acknowledged along with specific conditions of approval being adopted to ensure, for example,

  • the maintenance of supportive structures preventing substrate erosion and damage to dwellings and associated infrastructure,
  • the need for structures to be low-key, single storey-ed, mute colours and textures, blend with the natural environment, etc.
  • the installation and maintenance of locally indigenous water-wise gardens (and removal of invasive alien vegetation) and thus complementing the neighbouring National Park land
  • the installation of resource-efficient technology, etc.
  • more conditions should be extracted from the recommendations of the various specialist reports.

Latest Events regarding the proposed Polyclinic

On 16 May 2015 a meeting was held in the Hout Bay Community Centre (more usually referred to as the Old Bowling Club) called by Dr N Mbombo, the Minister of Health in the Provincial Government of the Western Cape (PGWC).  The meeting was the third in a series called by the minister to give the communities in Hout Bay the authorities’ version of the steps that have been taken to date in respect