PROPOSED POLYCLINIC ON THE HOUT BAY COMMONAGE
The proposal by the Government of the Western Cape for a large polyclinic on the Hout Bay commonage is inappropriate and does not fit in with the Plan for the commonage, and is of great concern as it will further erode the remaining Open Space and render the Commonage almost completely depleted – the commonage is the only sizable bit of usable Public Open Space remaining in Hout Bay.
In addition, the usage (clinic/hospital) is really not appropriate for this sort of Open Space especially alongside the Baviaans River which has a significant catchment and is a natural feature which (together with the rest of the Commonage) the community and the City are busy rehabilitating and improving, slowly but surely - project by project.
The fact that there has been no public participation on this issue is of great concern - especially in view of the community efforts that have gone into preserving the Commonage and improving it over the years. Such unilateral action by the Province & City is unforgivable and it does not bode well for the future of Hout Bay - nor does it do the image of 'a caring city' any good.
At present Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu (IY) each have their own health clinic. The IY one is quite spacious and more or less meets the needs of the local populace. By contrast, the Hangberg clinic is very small and quite inadequate for the community it serves.
We learnt over 6 months ago that the Provincial health department was looking for a central site in Hout Bay on which to replace the present Hangberg & IY clinics. The preferred spot was the then vacant piece of land next to Checkers but it was found to be earmarked for a MyCiti bus terminus; which is now in the process of construction.
The planned footprint for a double storey clinic & its grounds is 4000m², so a fairly large piece of land is needed. It appears that a number of possible sites were looked at but none were suitable, for one reason or another.
Then, in mid-November 2014, the bombshell exploded. We were informed that the City had suggested to Province that the polyclinic be located on the Hout Bay commonage; in particular on Erf 1033, Hout Bay, where the scout hall now stands, behind the old bowling green premises from which Iziko Lo Lwazi, Craftworkers, the community project producing a variety of delightful goods, operates.
We were flabbergasted, for it has been our understanding for many years that this land was given to the City at the turn of the 20th century to remain in perpetuity as open space for the benefit of the community.
To now build a clinic on Erf 1033 would almost completely negate the community efforts over the years to preserve the remainder of the Public Open Space that was originally proclaimed for the recreational benefit of the people of Hout Bay and to give space for the Baviaans River and its surrounding floodplain, which runs through it; a natural feature which the community and the City are busy rehabilitating and improving, slowly but surely - project by project, in furtherance of the City-approved Commonage Plan drawn up by landscape architect, Bernard Oberholtzer, in co-operation with interested and affected parties as co-ordinated by long-time resident Bon Gertz. She made sure that I&APs had a say and attended the various community meetings that discussed the concepts around which the Commonage Plan was eventually formulated. The project was fully supported by the Residents' Association and the Ward Councillor at the time.
As it is, the Commonage has slowly been whittled away; Kronendal School took a large chunk for tennis courts and swimming pool, without any public participation and we believe in violation by Province of the terms of the original bequest, and now there is precious little left. To build a polyclinic there would be a travesty.
Our dismay was compounded when we looked at the zoning map in the Cape Town Zoning Scheme (CTZS) which came into operation on 01 March 2013, for there it was: Erf 1033 was zoned Community Zone 1, which includes “clinic” in its Primary Uses which can be exercised by the City as of right.
However the tale now takes another turn. On 05 December 2014 there was a meeting of various interested parties on Erf 1033, to exchange views and have a preliminary look at the site, to gauge its suitability for a polyclinic. At the outset, Mr O Gonsalves, District Manager - Southern District, Planning & Building Development Management of the City of Cape Town announced that the zoning given in the CTZS is incorrect. Erf 1033, Hout Bay, was previously zoned for Local Authority Purposes and was converted incorrectly to Community Zone 1. It should have been converted to Utility Zone. This zoning is no better for a piece of land which is supposed to be preserved as commonage for the community but it means that if the politicians insist on a polyclinic being built on Erf 1033, a complete rezoning process will have to be undertaken.
The political factor is mentioned because the two provincial government officials at the meeting on 05 December stressed that the Premier herself, Helen Zille, had ordered that a polyclinic be built in Hout Bay and that it be sited centrally. No other suitable central & available location had been found and in any event Erf 1033 was ideal as it was government land, meaning no funds other than an inter-governmental transfer would be involved.
In our opinion, the zoning issue and centrality are not the only aspects that need to be considered when deciding on the location of a polyclinic in Hout Bay, quite aside from the legality of such a project as discussed earlier. For instance, on enquiry, the officials confirmed that there has been no attempt to find out the views of the inhabitants of Hangberg or IY about the plan to build a clinic away from their homes. Neither the Hangberg nor the IY communities are wealthy and a trip to and from a clinic on Erf 1033 will cost the person concerned at least R24 return, at today’s prices. By contrast, the present clinics are within walking distance of their respective communities.
The officials present at the 05 December meeting admitted that the existing IY clinic could be significantly enlarged, though all are agreed that the Hangberg one must move to a larger location. Our councillor, Marga Haywood, who was there, pointed out that there is an ideal spot for this clinic belonging to City on the edge of Hangberg. The facilities provided by a polyclinic could be conveniently split between two larger community clinics.
It must be hoped that the politicians and officials reconsider their ill-advised desire to build a single polyclinic which will involve continuous movements across the valley of significant numbers of persons, from which only the taxi operators will benefit and the patients will lose financially, whereas if two clinics are maintained the only personnel movements required would be the odd staff member between the clinics.