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 of plans to build a Community Day Centre, commonly termed a ‘polyclinic’, in Hout Bay.

In the opinion of the Hout Bay Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association (HBR&RA) the minister spoke well at the meeting but her delivery and replies to questions from the floor by herself and her officials present contained at least 2 major inconsistencies of which people living in Hout Bay should be aware.

The timeline below sets out the HBR&RA’s understanding of the genesis of this polyclinic project and what has transpired over the past 8 years or more in this regard.  It includes the facts which the HBR&RA believes gives the lie to two of the things the PGWC delegation said at the 16 May meeting.  One of these facts is set out in bold for ease of reference; the second and arguably most damning one, is dealt with at the conclusion of this article.

The history of this polyclinic matter is as follows:

  • The PGWC determined a number of years ago that Hout Bay needed greater medical facilities provided by the state because of the rapid growth in the valley's population.
  • The preferred option was to build a Community Day Centre, commonly termed a ‘polyclinic’, as in one central spot far more services can be provided than if the two existing clinics were overhauled.
  • Anyway, the Hangberg site does not permit of the building of a larger clinic.
  • The Hout Bay Medical Forum, made up of doctors in private practice in Hout Bay, approved the idea of a polyclinic at least 7 years ago.
  • Since then the PGWC property people have been looking for a suitable site; 11 different locations have been considered.  None of this activity was known to any NGO in Hout Bay, except for the Medical Forum, which did not share its knowledge.
  • In November 2014 the PGWC wrote formally to the City expressing an interest in acquiring two bits of land forming parts of the Hout Bay Commonage, on which to build a Community Day Clinic: the portion of Erf 1033-RE which contains the scout hall and Erf 3779 - the old bowling green.
  • It was at that stage that NGOs in the valley became aware of the authorities' intentions when we learnt of an early morning site meeting on 05 December 2014, to be held on Erf 1033-RE between the PGWC property people and representatives of the City's property and land use planning departments.
  • Messrs Swimmer and Hudson of the HBR&RA attended the meeting.  They were told that its purpose was for the persons attending to look at the proposed site for a new polyclinic on Erf 1033-RE.  The expression of interest by the PGWC in Erf 3779 was not mentioned. The HBR&RA representatives expressed their total opposition to the idea of alienating for any government purpose almost all that remains of the original commonage extent; this area was originally large enough to contain a 9 hole golf course but has been progressively whittled away over the years.
  • The PGWC representative at the meeting, Ms Milne van Leeuwen, the Director: Infrastructure Planning, Infrastructure & Technical Management Chief Directorate, Department of Health, PGWC, stated that the Premier, Ms Helen Zille, had expressed her support for the idea of placing a polyclinic, with a footprint of 2000m² on the commonage.
  • At that point, the City's top planner in the Plumstead office, Mr O Gonsalves,  announced that, contrary to the general understanding in the City & PGWC, Erf 1033-RE is not appropriately zoned for use as a clinic site.  The Cape Town Zoning Scheme (CTZS), which came into force on 01 March 2013, describes the zoning of this erf as Community Zone 1, but that zoning is incorrect, as the old zoning scheme zoning, which should have been carried into the CTZS, would now be Utility Zone 1, which does not permit a clinic to be built on it.
  • Thus, before a clinic can be built on Erf 1033-RE it would have to be rezoned to Community Zone 1.  As it happens, this error is not of great significance because, since the mistake was a purely administrative blunder, it can, in terms of the rules of the CTZS, be corrected by the stroke of a pen.
  • What cannot be corrected by the stroke of a pen however is the fact that an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), with public participation, will have to be carried out before a building of any size can be erected on Erf 1033-RE, as its footprint of 2000m² would definitely fall within 32 metres of the bank of the Baviaans River.
  • Since that 05/12/14 meeting there have been various moves by the authorities and the Hout Bay communities regarding this polyclinic proposal.  A significant event was a public meeting at the Old Bowling Club, called by Marga Haywood, our Ward 74 councillor, held on 31 January 2015.
    • It was very well attended, by persons from all three Hout Bay communities and
    • the clear consensus was that the PGWC should be told that a single polyclinic was just not wanted, because of the inconvenience of attending it for its two main constituencies: the people of Hangberg & IY. 
    • It was at this meeting that we learnt for the first time that the Hout Bay Medical Forum had been aware for at least 7 years of the intention to build a polyclinic in the valley and were supportive of the idea.
  • On 04 February Minister Mbombo issued a press release containing the following statement:

Over the past seven years, the Department of Health has worked tirelessly to ensure that we identify a site that will meet all these requirements. We have considered more than ten potential sites which proved to be either unsuitable, far too expensive, inappropriately zoned and inaccessible to members of the public who need to use public transport.  …The only existing appropriate site which we have identified is the one behind the bowling green, the ‘Hout Bay Common’, which will be able to accommodate all the health needs for this new facility.

  • The statement also drew attention for the first time to the PGWC’s intention to build on Erf 3779 – the old bowling club site, as well as on Erf 1033-RE.
  • It became clear that the PGWC is determined that a single polyclinic shall be built to replace the Hangberg & IY clinics and a NGO called the Hout Bay Partnership (HBP) entered the picture. This organisation has built up a close rapport with the City and the PGWC and persuaded the latter that, since there is such strong local opposition to putting this polyclinic on the commonage, the HBP should be given the opportunity to research the matter and suggest other suitable sites for this facility.
  • The PGWC's criteria for the Hout Bay polyclinic are:
    •  On or close to a prime or feeder road to facilitate ease of access for emergency vehicles as well as public transport.
    •  With no significant physical constraints which may compromise the layout, such as rock outcrops, rivers, waterways, historical trees.
    • Should not be too close to the beach area so that maintenance and sand management would become an issue.
    •  Ideally not close to neighbouring uses that may not be compatible with a public health clinic, such as upmarket residential hotels, restaurants and art galleries which may result in protracted objection processes.
    •  The site proportion should ideally be closer to square than long and thin as thin sites are difficult to plan a compact facility on.
    •  Site should be affordable and not be above market related costs for the purposes of an institutional facility.
    •  Zoning should be for the institution and if not, should be easy to obtain.  It would be preferable if EIA studies will not be required. However as there are limited sites available this may have to take place.
    • Site should be flat.
  • On 13 April 2015 several sites identified as suitable for the building of a polyclinic that will be more or less equidistant from Hangberg & IY were presented to Dr Grammar, the head of the PGWC health district into which Hout Bay falls,  and Ms Milne van Leeuwen :
    • Erf 5348: Next to Checkers, on the site where the MyCiti bus terminus is being constructed; knock down the small building presently being erected and relocate the terminus next to Imizamo Yethu. Dr Grammer & Ms van Leeuwen indicated that this option had been considered but the site is too small for a polyclinic.
    • Erf 7759: the empty land in front of the Breakers flats opposite the Beach Club.
      • This land:
        • is zoned Open Space Zone 2 &
        • measures 5673 m². 
      •  Dr Grammer said that this site was her preferred option.
      • However the City's Traffic department has said that ingress and egress is not easy.
      • Also the PGWC property people consider:
        •  it to be too much of a long thin site and
        • blown sand could be a problem.
      •  Regarding these two objections it was pointed out to Dr Grammar that they are not well founded because:
        • The base of the triangle, as it were, is quite large enough to accommodate a building with a 2000m² footprint.
        • Blown sand is not a problem on this site because of the extremely well forested dunes on the southern side of Princess Drive.
    • Erf 666: Dr Grammar advised that this site had already been considered but it is private land and too expensive. It is a very large, 53000m², site. A lot of it is below the 100 year floodline. Therefore the building would have to be carefully positioned.
    • Erf 5328-RE: the grove of mixed trees, including milkwoods, next to the Post Office. This piece of land is half of the whole erf, which is split in two by the entrance to the Mainstream Shopping Centre off Princess Drive.
      •  The grove is some 7000m² in extent,
      •  flat and
      • zoned Open Space Zone 2 – like Erf 7759.
      •   An EIA would be needed for the trees:
        • there are milkwoods on the site but
          •  at least 50% of it is covered in aliens; a large enough area for the polyclinic and parking;
          •  parking can also be accommodated under the milkwoods.
      •  It is more than 32 metres from the Hout Bay River so no EIA or National  Environment Management Act restrictions concerning the river would apply, as compared to the Erf 1033 commonage suggested location which is right beside the Baviaans River.   
  • Meanwhile, Dr Mbombo has called three meetings in Hout Bay, to give her version of why Hout Bay needs a polyclinic and where it should be located.  She has stated publicly that she places no value on Marga Haywood's meeting of 31 January 2015 as she, Mbombo, did not call it.  Note that they are politicians from the same party.
    •  These meetings have now been held. The first one, in IY, was well attended. 
    • The second one, in Hangberg, drew a far smaller crowd; of those who were there many of them were IY people.
    • The third meeting, intended to appeal to the ratepayers in the valley, was held on 16 May 2015 and its content, or lack thereof, is the reason for the publication of this timeline.  As stated earlier in this article, in the course of this meeting remarks by the minister or her officials contained at least 2 serious inconsistencies of which people living in Hout Bay should be aware as this polyclinic moves forward. 
  1. The minister said several times that the PGWC property people are still evaluating all the 11 original sites they had identified plus those recently suggested to them; that is clearly not so; her press release of 04 February 2015  stated clearly that the only one of the 11 sites considered as suitable for a polyclinic was Erven 1033-RE /3779.
  2. The other, and even more damning, mis-statement was the assertion at the meeting by the PGWC architect that the City of Cape Town is not at present processing the alienation of Erven 1033-RE and 3779 from the City to the PGWC, and the corroboration of this remark by the minister.  This contention was clearly given the lie by our ward councillor’s remarks at the meeting that she has evidence to the contrary. Despite all the protestations to the contrary; we firmly believe in Marga Haywood’s version.

These clear mis-statements by representatives of the PGWC, whether willful or mistakenly, must give rise to considerable concern about the trustworthiness of what the PGWC is saying & doing in this polyclinic location exercise.  All the indications are that the politicians, led by the Premier, Helen Zille, and with the willing participation of City officials, have already decided that a Community Day Centre will be built on the Hout Bay Commonage and are proceeding with the administrative steps required to make that happen.