Tshwane rejects residents’ bid for access control

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Copy of Copy of PN Security2014022 [1] Independent Newspapers The restricted and controlled access point in Judith Street at the Constantia Glen Security Village. Picture: Kennedy Mudzuli

Pretoria -

Residents of Constantia Park, Waterkloof Glen and Erasmuskloof have vowed to appeal against the City of Tshwane’s decision to reject their application for controlled access to their community which has been operating as a gated community for more than three years.

Bruce Harbour, chairman of the Constantia Glen Security Village, said in the interests of the safety of all residents within these areas, they would not give up.

“The decision makes a mockery of people’s right to protect themselves. We do not understand the reasons given for the refusal.

“In fact, the reasons given were different to those of the original objectors, of which only one remaining one - a business - is located outside the village.

“Residents have contributed more than R3 million to secure the area,” he said. “The next step would be an appeal to the municipal manager. Should this fail, we will approach the high court.”

Residents thought they had done everything by the book, and the application complied with all legislative requirements.

But, in refusing the application, the city said that, according to police, the crime rate in the area was low.

More metro police had been employed and briefed on safety awareness, the city added.

However, residents believe crime is now lower because of the controlled access, and that the metro police recruits referred to still need to be trained.

The municipality also noted the application did not meet safety issues.

Harbour said the initiative had support of 72.3 percent, of which 52 percent were paying every month. “What is strange is that none of the reasons given for refusing the closure were raised by any of the five objectors. Also, crime statistics for the Brooklyn sector show an increase from already unacceptable levels.”

The DA in the council voted against the refusal. The Freedom Front Plus also objected, arguing that residents of the suburbs should not be denied their right to protection. “To stop crime and not just complain and expect more of the local government to make their area safer, this community decided to take ownership of their situation,” the DA’s Francois Bekker told the council. “My prediction is that this community will again approach the high court to protect them from its own local government.”

Bekker said it was a mistake to refuse residents the right to protect themselves, and the reasons given were weak.

Those against the closure, mainly from the ANC, likened the proposed access restriction to apartheid government policies that restricted people’s movement.

The application was first made in July 2010. Because of the alleged unreasonable delay and high crime rate in the area, residents approached the high court in December that year.

The court upheld the application, pending finalisation of the application for restriction of access, and residents erected access control structures. In June 2012, the application was approved by the council’s Strategic Land Development Tribunal - with conditions.

During a discussion of the issue by the tribunal in July last year, the applicant confirmed that 70 percent of the residents were in favour of the application. However, the objectors argued it was 45 percent.

The tribunal asked the city’s planning department to revisit the application to determine the exact number of houses, units and business owners in the area.

The matter was kept in abeyance.

Tshwane Metro spokesman Blessing Manale said since the implementation of the legislation on gated communities in 1998, the city had received 112 applications for authorisation to restrict access.

About 63 of these applications were approved by the council or by means of high court applications until January 2011, he said.

Of the applications approved, 10 were never implemented and 38 had lapsed in terms of the two-year period of renewal.

Of the 112, 22 applications had not been approved or were refused as additional information was needed from the applicants.

A recent survey has found 24 communities have been gated without any form of approval.

Manale said: “The information relates only to established residential areas that want to or have converted into closed neighbourhoods. It does not include existing newer townships or gated communities that were planned and approved with a servitude over the public road to accommodate the access gates and guardhouses or control at the entrance.

“We need to be wary of an increasing demand of gated communities which represent a growing search for a new utopian vision for the ideal neighbourhood in fast-growing, diverse and polarised cities. It is not in the interest of inclusive urban development and neither of interest in the capital city we envision.”

Manale said gated communities had long been seen as a rational response to rising crime, yet little was known about the extent to which living in a gated community reduced one’s risk of criminal victimisation.

“For this reason we believe they have served more to distort the property market, and constrain societal and racial integration. It is not in the interest of our transformation agenda that our living areas must continue to be created in the suburbs whose uniqueness and exclusiveness are defined by the number of safety measures.” - Pretoria News

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