Opposition to Somerset West housing estate plan

Cape Times
January 23rd, 2014

Property developers are planning to build an upmarket housing estate and a huge private school of more than 1 800 pupils near Somerset West – outside the urban edge.

The proposed development, with 153 upmarket houses, is planned for the foothills of the Schapenberg between the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg mountain ranges, near Vergelegen and Morgenster wine estates.

The 52ha development on the Hathersage farm will straddle the Lourens River, which is protected as the Lourens River Protected Natural Environment. The developers call the housing section an ‘upmarket lifestyle estate’.

This is yet another development planned to be built outside the urban edge, the line defined in the City Council’s spatial development framework to contain urban sprawl, to keep the costs of services down, to protect sensitive natural environments and to prevent valuable agricultural land from being covered in concrete.

The land is zoned as agricultural and much of it is currently under deciduous fruit and grapes.

The draft scoping report, the first stage of the environmental impact assessment, says because the Lourens River and a tributary meander through the farmland, it is assumed there will be some wetlands on the site, which specialist studies will have to confirm.

Gavin Smith, of the Greater Cape Town Alliance, an umbrella body of several civic and environmental organisations, said the body was opposed to Hathersage.

‘This is yet another proposal outside the urban edge. The whole point of having the urban edge in the spatial development framework is to prevent this sort of thing, having urbanisation take up agricultural land. It will straddle the Lourens River, which is the only river in the whole of South Africa that is protected as a natural environment,’ Smith said.

What he fears is that the City Council has a ‘disposition’ to change the urban edge in a piecemeal fashion to allow developments on farmland.

‘Already there are huge swathes of agricultural land in the Helderberg region that have been incorporated inside the urban edge, for instance the land from Sir Lowry’s Pass road and Gordon’s Bay.

As well as the housing and the primary and high schools, there will be underground pipelines, roads, flood alleviation structures and a bridge over the river connecting the two parts of the development.

‘A school with 1 850 pupils is big, and there’e going to be a thousand soccer moms driving up and down every day. That is a lot of traffic.’

This month MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell turned down the application to change the urban edge to allow housing in the Philippi Horticultural Area, but approved the application to change the urban edge to pave the way for the massive ‘mini city’ Wescape development on the West Coast.

For further information, please see: http://helderbergres.org.za/hathersage-development-application/

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5 comments to Opposition to Somerset West housing estate plan

  • Pierre Okes

    Somerset West is overdeveloped. The poor, badly maintained infrastructure cannot cope with current development. No further development can be considered until the infrastructure has been updated. I have lived here for seventy-five years and have witnessed farm after farm being covered over with tar and cement. Feeble attempts to address infrastructure have only added to the congestion. This development must not be allowed to proceed.

  • Louise Pringle

    I am opposed to the new development. Somerset West has seen massive development in the last 15 years and this has put an enormous strain on infrastructure. Water and sewerage systems are old and burst pipes occur with alarming regularity. Because of the unique situation of the town, roads become congested very easily (Some may remember the disastrous gridlock that occurred when the Celine Dion Concert was held at Vergelegen). We also have several private schools catering for those who can afford it; a school of 1800 would be totally unnecessary. Please rethink and do not allow this development to take place.

  • Leon

    I live on Via Appia in Rome Glen (the other side of Hathersage and Gordon Road) and have a beautiful view over the fruit orchards and dams. Needless to say I am also horrified to hear of the proposed development which would definitely ruin my view (at night its pitch dark as well – beautiful) and negatively affect my property value.

    Also, the section of Via Appia that I live on is currently a cul-de-sac and is therefore pretty quiet. Judging by the plans of the developers I’d be looking at all the residents cars driving in and out of the new estate – nightmare stuff!

  • Jen

    I am totally opposed to this development. Our roads are in a dreadful state before we get so many extra vehicles travelling on them, congestion would be great. The river is a very special place and should not be compromised at any cost. Then we have the flooding problem, anyone who has been involved in rescuing folk will know what this means. The infrastructure of sewage, storm drains etc are toally inadequate and would need complete renewal to even begin to cope, that alone would involve huge costs and upheaval to many of our areas, not just Hathersage area. Please do not allow this development to go ahead as proposed. Our environment is special – do not savage the landscape

  • Yolande

    Gordon road can not carry the current traffic in the mornings and evenings, with added traffic this will turn into a nightmare. The road is current not being maintained. The water drains are not being maintained – please refer to the latest flood in November 2013 – all houses below the farm was flooded. Government giving permission to build below flood line???? Building would change the river flow even more…more damage to our area….

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