Relief road: Is Cape Town city council going behind our back?

Has Cape Town City Council begun to pave the way for the proposed relief road for Main Road without first consulting Wynberg residents?

It certainly looks like it, as the council has applied for the demolition of a Wellington Road cottage that is in the way of the proposed relief road.

The relief road – also known as the Brodie Road couplet – will be a two-lane public road that cuts right through residential Wynberg and will carry heavy traffic such as buses, trucks and taxis (see map below).

The City has repeatedly promised public participation before finally deciding whether to proceed with the Brodie Road couplet.

“Since February 2014, residents and the WRRA have been asking our ward councillor and the City’s Mayoral Committee member for transport, Brett Herron, for more information,” says WRRA vice-chairperson Kristina Davidson, who also heads up the WRRA heritage and land use committees. “We keep being told that we have to wait until the conceptual designs are complete before public participation can start”.

What Herron and our present ward councillor failed to tell the WRRA, was that the City had already advertised the proposed demolition in the Cape Times.

Wellington Rd 17 demolition

And that our ward councillor had supported the proposed demolition.

Liz Brunette's letter of support for the demolition

To Davidson this all sounds very suspect. “Have we been kept at a distance on purpose? The application to have the cottage demolished shows the City has been proceeding with the planned relief road while telling us that nothing has been finalised yet.”

This is contrary to the resolution taken by the Protea Subcouncil in 2002, as proposed by then ward councillor Debbie Schafer, that “no phase [of the couplet scheme] will be commenced before an extensive meaningful public participation process has taken place and overwhelming support of the public is obtained”.

Demolition of cottages

At their meeting on 24 August 2014, the Protea Subcouncil approved the demolition of three council-owned cottages in Plumstead. They would also have approved the demolition of 17 Wellington Road in Wynberg, were it not that a permit is first required from Western Cape Heritage, as the cottage is older than 60 years.

The cost of providing security at the unoccupied cottage was given as a reason for the demolition of 17 Wellington Road, but the application also mentions that the cottage falls within the “proclaimed South Road widening scheme” – which includes the Brodie Road couplet.

Application demolition 17 Wellington Rd

“How the City can contemplate demolishing well-built houses when the country is facing such a serious housing crisis makes no sense at all,” adds Davidson.

Why are we concerned about the couplet?

The WRRA welcomes the roll-out of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme to Wynberg, as there is no rail link between Khayelitsha and our suburb. However, this particular plan will make Wynberg the first suburb where a new road is built right through an established, well-functioning residential area to make way for the BRT scheme.

Where else, asks Davidson, has the introduction of a MyCiti bus route meant that houses had to be demolished and Main Road made one-way?

The new road is expected to run from just below Rockley Road, up Tenby Road, through what is currently the Pick n Pay parking area, past Maynardville Park where the old home affairs office was, past the library and up Brodie Road. Houses in the way of the road all belong to the council.

Wynberg map 3

  • Traffic increase and commercial creep

The relief road will result in an increase traffic flow and speed, and result in further commercial creep. It will not only carry MyCiti buses, but also taxis, lorries and other typical Main Road traffic. The increased traffic and commercial creep will also increase pressure significantly on the Old Wynberg Village, an urban conservation area that already has many intractable traffic issues

  • Bad for business

Businesses in Main Road will lose their passing trade, as vehicles travelling north will bypass a large section of Main Road. The new road will also create another barrier for shoppers from West Wynberg wanting to get to Main Road

 

Is there another solution?

The proposed BRT route will not join up with north-south BRT network – to get to town or Muizenberg, commuters will still have to take the train or a taxi.

One solution, says Davidson, is for the BRT to stop at the transport interchange in Wynberg, where commuters can then transfer to the train, a taxi or walk to their destination. After all, that’s what transport interchanges are for!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Can residents and home owners of Wynberg call for an urgent meeting with City Council in attendance? We need the City to put all the facts on the table. We need to know with unwavering clarity – what exactly they are planning – why the proposed changes & how they think the changes will benefit our residential community. The City’s very one-sided decision making process is shocking. Surely input from all residents and homeowners invested in WYNBERG needs to be considered. For positive outcomes on all sides – urgent direct COMMUNICATION with the City is vital. We have a right to know – we have a right to considered and included in the City’s decision making processes.

    • Hi Susan. The WRRA has been asking and asking the City Council for clarity about their plans and in particular when the public participation process will begin. They keep telling us that the public participation can only happen once the conceptual design is in place.Yet, at the same time, they are voting to demolish houses and telling us no traffic-calming measures can be funded until the road is built.

      They have ignored our requests for a meeting and for answers to our questions, especially regarding the resolution of 2002 whereby the Protea Subcouncil said that “no phase [of the couplet scheme] will be commenced before an extensive meaningful public participation process has taken place and overwhelming support of the public is obtained”.

      On the 26 August, we sent the following email to Brett Herron with copy to Cllr Brunette:

      …quote
      Dear Mr Herron

      On Friday 22 August 2014, the Protea Sub-council voted for the demotion of three Council-owned houses in Plumstead because of the relief road/South Road widening scheme. They would have also approved the demolition of 17 Wellington Road but were unable to because a permit is required from Heritage Western Cape – the house is older than 60 years, like most of the houses in Wynberg.

      This came as a great surprise to us, as since February 2014 we have been repeatedly told that we must wait until the conceptual designs for the couplet scheme have been done before any public participation process and that nothing was finalised. I fear that you and we may have had the wool pulled over our eyes by City officials who have their own agenda. The approval to demolish the houses is a clear indication that the relief road scheme (aka the Brodie Road couplet) is a fait accompli. What then would be the purpose of the public participation process – to ‘rubber stamp’ a plan that will destroy a well-functioning, established residential neighbourhood?

      The WRRA would like to invite you to meet with us to discuss the proposed route.

      While we welcome the roll-out of the BRT to Wynberg, we believe that if the City goes ahead with this particular plan, it will destroy a well-functioning, established residential neighbourhood, result in the demolition of heritage houses (i.e. over 60 years old), increase traffic flow and speed, and result in further commercial creep. The increased traffic and commercial creep will increase pressure significantly on the Old Wynberg Village, an Urban Conservation Area that already has many intractable traffic issues, while making Main Road one way will have a disastrous impact on Main Road businesses.

      You keep saying that the road is for the BRT route, but the road will be a public road, open to all forms of traffic (taxis, buses, cars, trucks) and uses (e.g. informal trading, businesses). Also, nowhere else in Cape Town has the BRT required a new road to be built. It is incomprehensible why this should be the plan in Wynberg, unless it’s a sneaky device for funding a couplet that no one except the traffic engineers wants. Why can’t the BRT stop at the transport interchange in Wynberg? Isn’t that the purpose of a transport interchange?

      Thank you in advance for your response and for a proposed time/day next week when we can meet. After the site visit, we would like to invite you to enjoy a cup of Four and Twenty’s famous coffee.
      …unquote

      On the 1 September, we sent a follow-up email:

      ..quote
      Dear Mr Herron

      One week ago we sent you the below email but have not received a reply. The lack of response to our questions or acknowledgment of our concerns (by your office and our councillor) is extremely disappointing.

      At the November 2002 meeting of the Protea Subcouncil, councillors unanimously decided to support the overwhelming call by a united Wynberg community for deproclamation of the original scheme. The SubCouncil minutes included the following points that were proposed by our then councillor Debbie Schafer:
      (4) That the couplet scheme be developed in phases as, if and when required and that the concept as shown on Figures 2a and 2b be accepted as the basis for the long term road network development of Wynberg.
      (4.1) That provided that no phase will be commenced before an extensive, meaningful public participant process has taken place and overwhelming support of the public is obtained.
      (4.2) That proclamation of this couplet scheme not be applied for, and that it remain a concept only.
      (4.3) That the implementation of any phase will not be considered prior to the implementation of the Traffic Management Plan for at least 3 years, and the completion of the South Road Scheme.

      Yet, despite this, That the Council is considering (and approving) the demolition of houses for the said relief road/couplet scheme, which you keep saying is still at conceptual stage. It simply doesn’t make sense. All the documents that we have seen (e.g. Traffic Area Management Plan for Wynberg) assume that the couplet scheme will be part of any BRT extension to Wynberg, and our local councillor has also made public statements to that effect. And yet, there has been no extensive, meaningful public participant process. Why is this so?

      Your website states that “Cape Town residents have the right and duty to participate in local government decision-making”. Our request is that the City of Cape Town engage with the community of Wynberg before proceeding further with the plans (and demolishing more houses).

      Thank you in advance for your response to this email.
      ..unquote

      We have received no acknowledgement or reply to our emails. Any suggestions you may have to get the City to listen to our concerns would be most welcome.

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