An artist's impression of the new development. Graphic: Rowan Abrahams/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - There has been widespread outrage over a multibillion-rand development planned for the Somerset Hospital precinct with affordable housing as an afterthought.

Civil society and the local ratepayers association in Green Point opposed a proposal to rezone the Somerset Hospital between the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town Stadium precinct into a mixed-used development, which would include a hotel, 1 000 luxury apartments, a restaurant and places of entertainment.

The new proposed development was handed into the City of Cape Town for approval. The proposal also includes the closure of the Somerset Hospital. The detailed proposed development report which consist of 227 pages, is called the Somerset Precinct Regeneration project.

Jared Rossouw, Ndifuna Ukwazi’s co-director said: “We will be objecting to this development. DTPW (Department of Public Works) is proposing to close the Somerset Hospital and allow for 270 000m2 of floor space to be built, including shops, offices, hotels and over 1 000 exclusive apartments – this is roughly equal to two Canal Walk shopping centres in size. 

“Only 300 affordable units will be included, which represents 4% of the bulk. 

“Given this government’s track record, these are unlikely to be truly affordable public housing options, such as social housing, despite the site being within a restructuring zone.  

“As it stands, the proposal is not aligned with the province’s obligations to redress spatial apartheid. Considering the lack of any affordable housing having been built in the inner city and surrounds, legitimate questions should be asked about why the province routinely does not prioritise the needs of poor- and working-class people when considering the use of its well-located public land.”

In response to this, Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant, said that the rezoning application was submitted to the City of Cape Town in September last year. 

“The Ndifuna Ukwazi statement that four months later the DTPW has submitted a rezoning application is therefore entirely false and deliberately misleading.

"The rezoning does not imply that the Western Cape government is closing down Somerset Hospital – there is a fully functioning hospital on the site, which will continue to work. However, the current zoning is not correct across the whole site, for example, the current space that Helen Bowden is located on is zoned 'Open Space'.

“We are not in any disposal process and Ndifuna Ukwazi are correct that the whole precinct has not been declared surplus. Just because the Department of Transport and Public Works goes through a process of rezoning, subdivision and consolidation does not mean that the property is about to be disposed of. The rezoning application is currently open for public comment, which we are told has been extended to Friday." 

The Green Point Ratepayers' Association said on Tuesday the consultation process was “fatally flawed". 

"There was no public participation on this project, especially with the rezoning of the land. It is going to impact on traffic. Already the traffic circle at Granger Bay and Helen Suzman Roads is close to capacity. And affordable housing is not even addressed in the proposal,” said Stuart Burnett, the Green Point Ratepayers' Association's secretary of built environment.  

Cape Argus