Don’t disturb our ‘dorp’

Erf 1694 is bound by Melkbosstrand Road, Birkenhead Drive, Otto Du Plessis Drive and West Coast Road.

Residents opposing City of Cape Town plans to develop a huge chunk of Melkbosstrand have started a petition to keep the area “a dorp and not a Table View”.

Last month, City officials outlined three development scenarios for the plot bounded by Melkbosstrand Road, Birkenhead Drive, Otto Du Plessis Road and West Coast Road.

The 150-hectare site (erf 1694) is zoned for agriculture and transport, but the City wants to turn about 54 hectares into a mixed-use development, including retail, commercial and residential buildings. About 36 hectares would be used for environmental conservation while some 18 hectares would be set aside for possible future development.

The first option is for 1 535 residential units (50 m2 units), 35 217 m2 commercial space and 22 237 m2 retail space. The proposal states that the buildings may not exceed 15 metres above natural ground level

The second option proposes 643 residential units (50 m2 units), 13 982 m2 commercial space and 22 237 m2 retail space. Here the buildings would not exceed 12 metres above natural ground level.

The third plan is the “do nothing alternative” where the site remains as it is, and that’s the option Danielle Stephenson and many other Melkbosstranders want.

The 25-year-old, who has lived in Melkbosstrand since she was two, said the community was united against further residential or commercial development, especially near wetlands and nature areas.

Ms Stephenson started the online petition last month and attached a letter to the City explaining why the development “along with any other development is unwanted and not needed in Melkbosstrand”.

The petition calls for 1 000 signatures. So far it is has 813.

“Melkbosstrand cannot handle more residents or scholars. We are at our maximum population,” said Ms Stephenson, citing traffic congestion, overpopulation and loss of indigenous vegetation bird life and wetlands as some factors arguing against development.

Melkbosstrand was popular with residents and tourists alike, she said, because it was “small, natural, special, beautiful and historic. We really want to try and keep it that way for as long as possible”.

One of the petitioners, Anna Frylinck, said: “Please don’t ruin the village atmosphere of this gem so close to Cape Town. Let it be for people who don’t want to be a part of the rat race.”

Clay Coetzee said: “Melkbos will never be Melkbos if it expands”.

Gertruida Prinsloo said: “We do not need a population explosion.”

Melkbosstrand Ratepayers’ Association chairwoman Smokie La Grange said the site was “an interesting piece of land and we could lose a lot due to development”.

Residents, she said, should tell the City what they wanted from a development. She said Melkbosstrand needed an affordable retirement village.

“I would also like to see a space for offices. It would be great to have more small shops and office space.”

Stuart Diamond, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, said City officials had met with those behind the petition and “agreed to consider their input/concerns raised during the investigation period”.

The City would seek authorisation from the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for it to gauge how to develop the site in line with applicable environmental laws and ensure an “equitable balance” between environmental conservation and possible development.

“The site is characterised by a number of biophysical features that need to be considered in terms of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the National Water Act 36 of 1998,” he said.

Public comments made about the development proposals would be addressed in a draft report that would be “the next document publicised for comment” and the deadline for written feedback had been extended to Thursday August 31.

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