Approved eco-estate raises ire

27th March 2013
Norman McFarlane

A controversial eco-estate, at the foot of the Hottentot’s Holland Mountains near Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, has received environmental approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP), despite numerous objections received during the public participation process.

The approval limits the development to 148, rather than the originally planned 400 dwellings, at the luxury Casa Maris Eco Estate. The development, which Bolander first reported on in 2009 (“Eco forum sees red over green estate”, April 29), is the brainchild of developer Henk Maris.

Although province has granted environmental approval, the City of Cape Town has the final say over the land use issue. Currently, the land is zoned agricultural, and in order for the project to go ahead, it will need to be rezoned.

“Although provincial government has given environmental approval for the project, the City of Cape Town must receive and review that approval.

“The application for rezoning will then be processed in terms of the City’s zoning scheme,” City of Cape Town’s Kylie Hatton told Bolander  last Friday.

Civic association The Greater Cape Town Alliance (GCTA), is opposed to the project, as it is located entirely outside of the urban edge, and approval of the project will set an unacceptable precedent according to GCTA spokesperson and Helderberg resident, Gavin Smith.

“We were originally concerned about the height up the mountainside that development was originally proposed, but the approval notes that it is limited to the area largely below the railway line which does to some extent negate that concern, although development will still take place above 300 metres,” he told Bolander last Friday.

An important component of the project, originally reported in Bolander’s 2009 article, is the social development aspect, which will see the Sir Lowry’s Pass Village community benefiting. According to Henk Maris, 50% of the turnover of the project would go to uplifting Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, administered through a trust, but according to reports, the approval document notes that only 10% of turnover will accrue to the trust, which must be established before development may commence.

“Our full support for Sir Lowry’s Pass Village getting much needed socio-economic assistance notwithstanding, we believe that this type of development should not be allowed to go ahead. It creates the impression that through offering significant economic-benefits to the local community, it is possible to ‘buy’ rights for a development,” said Mr Smith.

Turning to the matter of the transgression of the urban edge, Mr Smith said: “From a planning context it is a leapfrog, because it will result in going outside the urban edge, and it will therefore create a precedent for similar projects in the future.”

“When we (GCTA) discussed densification with the City during the drafting of the (recently promulgated) Spatial Development Framework, we supported greater densification in urban areas, on condition that  it would protect the urban edge, but (approval of)  this (project) will mean both densification, and encroachment over the urban edge, and that is unacceptable,” said Mr Smith.

But the urban edge is something of a political football, if the City’s recent response to developments projects is anything to go by. The application for sub-division to the City by the controversial Dassenberg housing development adjoining Ou Kaaspeweg above Sun Valley was declined because it fell outside of the urban edge, and the development was deemed to be inappropriate for the area.

By contrast, the 3 100 ha multi-billion Rand Wescape development, set to take place between Meklbosstrand and Atlantis has the full support of the City, Mayor Patricia De Lille specifically, despite the fact that it falls outside of the City’s northern urban edge. In contrast to the Dassenberg development, Wescape is seen as having definite benefits for the local community because it will result in significant infrastructure development, create jobs and connect Atlantis to the CBD.

The other problem, according to Mr Smith is lack of infrastructure capacity in the greater Helderberg. “Council tells us there is insufficient money for much-needed upgrades to existing infrastructure (water, electricity, sewage), so where will the money come from for (the infrastructure needed for) new developments?”

Bolander is planning an in-depth article on this controversial development, in due course.

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