Bridge divides community

Residents living in and around Milnerton have been divided in their opinion of whether or not upgrading the wooden bridge is a waste of money.

The City of Cape Town says funding for the rehabilitation of the old wooden bridge will come from national government and will not be “competing against nor reducing funding” for other needs.

Since Heritage Western Cape (HWC) approved the City’s plans to restore the historic bridge at Woodbridge Island (“Bridge passes another hurdle”, Tabletalk, March 8) there have been mixed reactions from residents.

Some have welcomed the “facelift” to the Woodbridge area, seeing it as an investment in the future of Milnerton that could rival the likes of Mouille Point.

Others have criticised the City for spending lavishly on an “ancient bridge” when areas such as Dunoon, Joe Slovo and Phoenix face pressing needs for more schools and housing, among other things.

In a string of comments on the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association (MCRA) Facebook page, residents debated the upgrades.

Tracy Edwards questioned what purpose the restoration would serve and who would benefit from it when there was a perfectly good bridge running adjacent to it.

“How do you justify this to Phoenix residents, who don’t have a school, or Dunoon residents who don’t have a police station? Surely not by arguing that it will further enrich an already wealthy area?”

Mandy Maggan said: “There are homeless people in need of a roof over their head but an ancient bridge needs to get R30 million. Who in their right mind prioritises this crap? We are run by the DA right?”

Stan Horwitz said: “I am so saddened by this wasteful expenditure. In a city where people need houses, it cannot be supported. Sorry, DA… this really is not good governance and is irresponsible”.

Those who welcomed the upgrades chose to look at the long-term benefits of a the new bridge. Valerie Rosss said: “Milnerton has been in dire need of upgrading and close attention for many years. It is and has been in decline for too long. A few attempts have been made around the lagoon area, but the streets are in a shocking condition. Some residents do what they can, but, honestly, it’s not enough. I think the demise of Centre Point and the uncertainty of what was happening there didn’t help matters. There is lots of lovely history to this suburb, excellent schools and great location. Properties to suit all pockets and all lifestyles.”

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said because the bridge would be used again as a pedestrian link it would be funded from the City’s non-motorised transport budget which, in turn, was funded by the public transport network grant made available to the City by national government.

“This project will therefore not be funded from the City’s budget provisions for things like housing, water, electricity, health services, safety and security services, emergency services, or social services.

“Thus the rehabilitation of this bridge is not competing against, nor reducing the funding available for, these other pressing needs,” he said.

The bridge’s age has also been called into question as writer Lionel Crook believes it was build during the period leading up to World War I. This contradicts popular belief that the bridge was built in 1901, which is also the date given on SA History Online.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, Forts of the Cape Peninsula, which lists more than 100 forts, batteries and redoubts that have existed at one time or another in the Cape Peninsula since 1652, Mr Crook writes that planning for the Milnerton battery (renamed King George V Battery) started around 1911. An extract from the book reads:

“The new site necessitated building a branch line from the Milnerton railway to the area to enable the heavy guns to be carried to the site of the battery. It included the construction of a bridge over the Diep River at the expense of the Imperial authorities and this task was undertaken by the Royal Engineers”.