A heated debate about housing developments for the community of Parkwood Estate has been attributed to “a miscommunication”.
Community leaders from Parkwood and Fairways met on Saturday March 27 to address both parties’ concerns – the need for affordable housing and the impact it would have on the surrounding communities.
In November last year the Fairways Residents’ and Civic Association (FRESCA) sent out a statement about the planned housing development in the area listing their objections which includes the potential increase in traffic volumes, increased risk to safety and security and the impact on property values in the area.
In the statement, residents described the development as a serious threat to the communities of Fairways and Ottery.
The statement also mentions that the development could potentially make way for 5 000 units which could see up to 35 000 people settling in the area, with proposed housing units including four-, three- and two-storey flats along the boundary between the School of Industries and the properties of First Avenue.
At the time Fresca chairperson Dimitri Jegels said the body objected to the proposed development in its current form.
On Saturday NPO Voice of Parkwood along with some of the leadership of Parkwood planned to protest in Fairways to address Fresca’s objections.
Paul Phillips, chairperson for the Voice of Parkwood said the initial communication from Fresca was hostile and “Apartheid-styled”.
“We have been reaching out to them and trying to engage. We met once but that was it.
“Our people are being marginalised and we can’t allow a few individuals from a community to dictate what is needed. The housing development is there to restore our dignity. The way it sounded it was like the people of Parkwood are not good enough to be their neighbours,” said Mr Phillips.
However, he said, the Parkwood body understood Fairways residents’ concerns.
“We understand their circumstances and that they are ratepayers but people of Parkwood have not been as fortunate to be able to get out of their circumstances. Fairways residents have the luxury of living in their own homes but Parkwood’s people are still suffering without decent services, sanitation and even electricity.”
A Fairways resident who did not want to be named, for fear of victimisation, agreed with what had been sent in the initial communication. He felt that a low cost housing development would cause a lot more issues in the adjacent communities.
“I understand the need for housing, but why not build houses in areas near the CBD where there are more opportunities, or Rondebosch common for example.
“There are a lot of elderly people living in Fairways and things are already problematic because people from Parkwood come here to break-in and commit crimes. A housing development and more people moving this side could potentially worsen it,” he said.
After the meeting on Saturday, the Fresca exco retracted its previous statement.
“The Parkwood delegates were especially offended by the statement: ‘Are you ready to welcome 50 000+ people being settled on our doorstep from areas like Lavender Hill, Steenberg, Parkwood, Du Noon, Manenberg, Philippi, Khayelitsha, etc?’
“With hindsight, the tone of the notice was harsh, and could be interpreted as if the residents of Fairways are opposed to people from poorer areas, including Parkwood, moving in next to Fairways.”
He apologised on behalf of the executive members.
“We have already been living with Parkwood as our neighbours for all these decades and we certainly wish to live in harmony with them. We state again that we are not opposed to housing for the poor, in fact we support it. However, we insist on decent housing for all.”
He said the association’s mandate from the residents of Fairways was to give qualified support for housing, on condition that it be quality housing, that the development be holistic, and that the concerns of residents in the surrounding suburbs also be taken into account.
They still insist the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements has not been forthcoming with information on the project, that due process had not been followed and that there has been no public participation.
Fresca has also requested a follow-up meeting to discuss the development.
The Parkwood leadership accepted the apology and retraction. “We acknowledge that they made a mistake and we will work with them to address issues on both sides,” said Mr Phillips.
MEC for Human Settlements Tertuis Simmers said the proposed plan was part of the Greater Retreat Housing Project and that the Plantation Road site had a 30-hectare footprint available for development.
The department has proposed mixed-use development which will have different income bracket housing.
Mr Simmers also said residents would be afforded an opportunity to make input and said they would keep the steering committee updated about the development.