Silverglade wall of trouble

The wall topped with barbed wire.

Some Silverglade residents who closed off a green belt with a concrete wall have outraged their neighbours who claim they weren’t consulted.

Twenty residents have now signed a petition to have the wall removed.

They say the wall between
1 The Glade and 58 Riverside Road wasn’t approved by the City of Cape Town and does not meet its fencing rules of being at least 40% see-through.

The wall is topped with barbed wire, has a locked gate and a sign saying it’s there to protect the western leopard toad and for drought rehabilitation. The cost of a key is R25.

Silverglade resident, Jo Goddard said the wall was unsightly and had led to more foot traffic in the neighbourhood and kept dog walkers from using the green belt.

“You cannot close off a public space and then charge people for a key to gain access to public land which the ratepayers pay for,” she said.

She went from house to house collecting signatures for the petition.

She said there had been no proper public participation.

Some residents had told her they had seen a notice in their postboxes asking them to mark “yes” or “no”, but others said they had seen no such notice.

“It seems only residents who live in close proximity to the greenbelt were given a notice and everyone I spoke to signed ‘no’, but it seems their wishes were ignored,” she said.

And residents from further afield were also upset about the green belt’s closure, she said.

If the City let the wall stand it could encourage others to build without permission, she said.

“The same laws must apply to all, not just to a few people who seem to be denying access to the green belt for their own convenience while hiding behind a guise of pseudo-environmental excuses.”

An 88-year-old Elm Close man who signed the petition but did not want to be named said he used the green belt frequently as a short-cut to the shop.

“I have to walk all the way round now on the road,” he said.

He recalled seeing a note in his mailbox but said he had not responded.

At the eye of the storm is Silverglade resident Andre Blom, who represents the residents who built the wall.

The wall was built as a security measure, he said, after several crimes in the area, and he claimed most residents surrounding the green belt approved of it.

The green belts had never been intended for heavy pedestrian traffic; that was why that City had run a lane along Riverside Road from Nelson Road to The Glade many years ago, he said.

The City’s poor maintenance of the green belts, the drought, sporadic cutting of the grass and excessive pedestrian traffic had reduced the green belts to sand, and when the blew, that sand soiled residents’ washing, he said.

Pedestrians were also using the green belt as a toilet and people weren’t picking up after their dogs.

“This happened on a daily basis and created a very unhygienic space for residents who used the green belt,” he said.

Mr Blom said the western leopard toad had been appearing ever more infrequently in the area since he had moved there in 1990, but there had been more sightings of the toad since the wall had gone up.

The proposal to close the green belt had been discussed with the local council, he said, adding that a wooden wall on the west side of Silverglade, running between 8 and 10 The Glen and blocking another green belt, had already set a precedent.

“We were advised to do a survey among all the residents to see if there were any objections. At this stage, a survey had already been done between residents bordering and in the immediate vicinity of the green belt,” he said

According to Mr Blom, there had been only one objection – from a resident not adjacent to the green belt, and that objection had been resolved.

Then council had asked for another survey, including all the residents west and north from The Glade and Riverside Road, Sycamore Crescent and Chestnut Road. And again, he said, there had been no objections. A formal application had then been submitted to council.

The cost of the wall was borne by the residents bordering the green belt.

“As soon as approval from council is received, a sign will be posted next to the gate,” he said.

The Silverglades Neighbourhood Watch said there had been several burglaries and attempted burglaries at houses backing on to the green belt in 2017 and 2018.

Ward councillor Felicity Purchase said she was investigating the matter.

However, the Echo has seen emails sent between residents opposing the wall, Ms Purchase and the City’s building inspectors that appear to support claims that the wall was not approved, as a building inspector says in the correspondence he was not aware of “such a closure”.