The City of Cape Town has done an about-turn on its decision to sell part of Princess Vlei to mall developers, putting an end to a contentious issue that has dragged on for more than 15 years. Picture Leon Lestrade. Story Henriette Geldenhuys

Cape Town - Astounded, astonished and delighted were just some of the reactions from opponents of plans for development at Princess Vlei, who on Saturday welcomed news of the city’s sudden about-turn.

Weekend Argus announced exclusively on Saturday that the City of Cape Town had halted plans to sell part of Princess Vlei to mall developers, putting an end to a contentious stand-off that has dragged on for more than 15 years.

The development was to have included a shopping mall, car park and taxi rank, but the plan was strongly opposed by environmental lobby groups and local residents who use the green area for ceremonies and recreation.

At the site on Saturday, deputy mayor Ian Neilson helped turn what was to have been a protest into a celebration when he attended to explain the city’s decision.

Tents were erected where members of organisations opposing the development gathered. People flew kites, there was food on sale and musical entertainment.

Also at the scene was Hennie van Wyk, chief of the Karaxougua Khoisan tribe, who commended the city for its “positive” decision.

He said the Khoisan were the original owners of Princess Vlei and that the development would have created a “concrete jungle” at a place the Khoisan considered “sacred”.

Members of the Southern African Faith Community Environmental Institute were also there. The institute’s eco congregation co-ordinator Kate Davies said the organisation was pleased that local businesses from Grassy Park and Lotus River would also retain the clientele they feared losing if a shopping centre was built there.

Phillip Bam, chairman of the Lotus River and Grassy Park Residents and Ratepayers’ Association, said the city had made a “great decision”.

He said people visited Princess Vlei to picnic, fish and be baptised, and that a mall development would have “placed concrete on a sensitive environmental space”.

Neilson said on Friday that the city “has listened to the community” and decided that the proposal for a shopping centre on the Princess Vlei land was “inappropriate”.

He added that the city looked forward to discussions with the communities surrounding Princess Vlei about “an alternative vision” for the use of the area.

Bridget Pitt, from the Princess Vlei Forum, said they were delighted at the decision, which was “testimony to the vision people have for the area”.

Graham Noble, executive committee member of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, said: “I’m astounded. This is fantastic news. We’ve been fighting so hard to convince the city and the provincial government of the foolishness of the project.”

The development plan was a “terrible idea” from an ecological, sociological and cultural point of view, he said.

Weekend Argus reported on Saturday that Insight Property Developers would be compensated for the project’s cancellation.

Weekend Argus