An artist's impression of Wescape, the planned mini-city expected to be built between Melkbosstrand and Atlantis.
An artist's impression of Wescape, the planned mini-city expected to be built between Melkbosstrand and Atlantis.

R140bn Wescape project ‘doomed’

By Zara Nicholson Time of article published Jun 5, 2013

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Cape Town - Experts from the University of Cape Town have torn into the proposed R140 billion Wescape mini-city proposal, saying the massive development is short-sighted, highly speculative – and doomed to fail.

Professors from UCT’s city and regional planning programme have outlined a host of reasons why they think Wescape is doomed, saying they are appalled at what the developers have proposed.

Under the banner of CommuniTy-grow, the five companies behind Wescape are Ariya Projects, ARG Design, Bellandia, Target Projects and Pact Developers. They are proposing Wescape as a mini-city with 200 000 homes and a population of 800 000 near Melkbosstrand, 25km from Cape Town. It is to be completed in the next 20 years.

In December the city supported the companies’ application to the provincial government to extend the urban edge to allow the development to take place. MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell is now considering the proposal.

In an open letter to Premier Helen Zille, Bredell and mayor Patricia de Lille, the five academics urged Bredell not to grant the application.

 

The letter was signed by Emeritus Professor David Dewar, Professor Vanessa Watson, Dr Nancy Odendaal, Tania Katzschner and Dr Tanja Winkler. The group said the future of the city did not lie in “grand solutions”.

“Cape Town has had its fair share of these – for example, Atlantis, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha – and all have been abject failures. Urban areas are complex, they cannot be comprehensively planned. International experience shows that the larger the project, the greater the uncertainty, the greater the downward risk and the higher the cost of failure.”

The group said the future of the city instead lay in many smaller, high quality projects on strategically located land within the city’s boundaries.

Terrence Smith from Target Projects said: “Atlantis was designed to fail. It was part of the apartheid strategy to put people out on the outskirts. We have a completely different strategy.”

David Williams from Pact said: “The premise of the project is very different. The view is not to segregate people as in the case of Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha. Everyone is making the city centre the focal point, when we have people out in the northern suburbs and Somerset West who work, who live there, and for whom the CBD is not the focal point.”

However, the academics said the development “will almost certainly worsen the position of the poor” and questioned the city’s reasons for supporting the proposal.

“The city concluded a metropolitan spatial development framework, involving considerable public participation, political approval and representing a social contract between the city and civil society.

“Despite this, the city has just approved a major revision of the urban edge which is an important part of the framework. It appears that the city has abandoned sensible planning for short-term political advantage and developer-led urban growth.”

They slammed the proposed development as “selfish and short-sighted”, saying it took little cognisance of the real problems of the city.

Quoting a 2008 UN study, they said Cape Town, like many other South African cities, was “highly dysfunctional”.

The UN study reviewed world cities and found South African cities to be “spatially the most inequitable and inefficient in the world, due largely to their fragmented form and extraordinarily low densities”.

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