Gatvol campaign goes to court

Brett Herron.

Kommetjie Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (KRRA) has started the process of taking the City of Cape Town to court after the City approved a housing development the KRRA argues did not take into account the traffic impact as required.

Acting chairperson of KRRA, Patrick Dowling, said he had spent the weekend initialling legal papers which would be using the approval of Riverside Extension in Kommetjie as a test case for the whole of the far south.

The Far South Peninsula Civic Forum, the umbrella body for civic associations and civic representatives in the far south, has been raising funds for this legal appeal as it believes that the approval of this development would open the floodgates to further approvals. Already approved and waiting to be built are 4 000 houses with the traffic congestion just being a visible symptom of a malfunctioning area, the forum contends.

“Traffic congestion is highly problematic and affects civic life. It is not just about sitting in traffic,” said Mr Dowling.

He said the Gatvol campaign had not stopped.

“It was used to mobilise crowd-funding for the legal action and it produced about R38 125. Added to the R80 000 donated by Kommetjie residents, this has been a positive start to a longer fund-raising effort.”

These funds were enough to initiate the legal action within the prescribed 180 days after the City made its final decision approving Riverside Extension. The court case is expected to cost about R350 000.

“We are launching the court case about Riverside Extension as a medium for the overall message. The mayor exercised her discretionary powers in approving the development and we have no further recourse. We will see how the City responds. Sometimes one needs to get to court so that all the arguments can be heard.”

Megan Adderley of Webber Wentzel, on behalf of the Kommetjie Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, has argued that the City’s approvals did not follow its own District Plan which requires that all major new developments require a traffic impact assessment and that the assessment should take into account traffic impacts in the whole Far South area as well as key access routes out of the valley, particularly Ou Kaapse Weg. Ou Kaapse Weg has been operating at beyond capacity since 2002.

If this approval was not challenged in the courts, it would set a dangerous precedent for development applications to be approved on flawed traffic impact assessments, ignoring the cumulative impact of development approvals on bulk infrastructure. If the legal challenge succeeds, it will set a positive precedent for the Far South to hold the City of Cape Town accountable for future approvals of developments and force the City to give more weight to input from civil society.

The City’s transport authority Transport for Cape Town (TCT) has, meanwhile, announced it is to start an eight-month study on transport in the Far South to determine the current and future access needs within, to and from the area and to identify interventions to improve the worst congestion points.

Information will be used to “develop a comprehensive transport plan” for the area south of the Silvermine mountain range, inclusive of the following suburbs: Muizenberg, St James, Kalk Bay, Clovelly, Fish Hoek, Sun Valley, Sunnydale, Noordhoek, Capri, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Kommetjie, Misty Cliffs, Scarborough, Red Hill, Dido Valley and Da Gama, Simon’s Town and Glencairn.

The City said it would focus on all current movement patterns in the Far South, including private vehicles, public transport such as buses, minibus-taxis, and rail, and non-motorised transport such as walking and cycling.

“As far as the vehicle movement patterns are concerned, the study will dovetail with the City’s Congestion Management Programme to consider pressure points associated with the morning and afternoon peak-hour periods, as well as those pressure points that are associated with the summer holiday season,” said the Mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron.

“The nature of traffic congestion will be assessed on all routes and in particular along Kommetjie Road, Main Road, Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman’s Peak Drive, the Glencairn Express Way (Blackhill Road), Main Road from Simon’s Town to Muizenberg, and Boyes Drive. In addition we will assess the capacity of the current road network in the Far South.

“The information will provide TCT with a holistic overview of the specific problems in the area such as the long delays caused by accidents on Ou Kaapse Weg, the limited alternative routes to and from the Far South, and specific areas where the safe movement of commuters is compromised. Operational interventions to address these challenges in the short-term will be proposed once the study has been concluded and approved.”

He said they would also be collating information about the way the area is being used – residential, business and recreational land use – and also look at land which had development rights but which had not yet been developed as this would also determine movement volumes and patterns.

“All existing transport infrastructure and plans will be assessed in the study, as well as the future plans of the major institutions in the area, such as the South African Navy, the Simon’s Town Dockyard and Table Mountain National Park,” said Mr Herron.

“The transport plan to be derived from the study must identify the most suitable interventions to meet the access needs to, within and from the Far South, and must support the City’s development objectives for the area and for the city as a whole. The plan may make some recommendations for minor roads as well, and will aim to promote the increased use of public transport, walking and cycling.”

The City would also engage with the railways, the taxi and bus industry.
“If all goes as planned, the City will host an open day within the first quarter of 2017 where the draft transport plan will be presented to the local residents and interested parties. Once completed, the final plan will be presented to the local sub-council in Fish Hoek for approval,” Mr Herron said.

Mr Dowling said that they were supportive of the process and would be watching it carefully.

“There should be a moratorium on development until this study has been completed,” he said.

“Traffic is an essential part of community functionality,” he added. “We don’t want to see this study as being just a ‘tar and white lines’ thing.”