Urban densification, globally, is a fact of life, and especially so in South Africa, with the influx into cities exacerbated by increasing unemployment and population growth rates. Uncontrolled urban densification is a problem, and while the City Council has passed new legislation and continues to consult with its residents, primarily through its councillors and through various online sessions, there are still, and will probably always be challenges ahead. The job is by no means done, and we are here to help, but like with all things we need your help. The Town Planning portfolio is headed up by Andrea Rosen, with assistance of a resident, Nellie Lester. Nellie – thank you!
Getting down to what we are all dealing with. The new town planning regulations, most notably the Nodal Review passed 28 Feb 2020, have serious potential and real implications for the future of our suburbs.
The Nodal Review effectively removes nodal boundaries and allows for residential densification on a much more intense scale and for mixed land uses on a broader scale than what was previously provided for. This means that the same rules apply for all suburbs, and there is no distinction between those areas paying higher or lower rates, at least as far as urban densification is concerned.
What does that mean to the homeowners in our suburbs? In short, using a typical half acre property in Craighall Park where previously only a subdivision into two stands was permitted, the Nodal Review now allows for a minimum density of 60 units per hectare, that’s 12 units per half acre stand, or 6 units onto an already subdivided stand.
Apartment living is a fact of life and some areas do have such densification already, however left unchecked the character and demographic of our suburbs will indisputably change. Before we cover the pressure on the current aging infrastructure, the urban tree canopy will be largely lost. Most of the trees in the largest man-made forest in the world grow on private property, and practically the new densities permitted cannot support their retention.
Ageing and inefficient infrastructure is a concern in many municipalities, and we are no different, as the recent spate of electricity outages and persistent water outages have shown. While the infrastructure still functions most of the time, and breakdowns do eventually get attended too (sometimes it doesn’t feel like that!), the fact remains that our infrastructure is not that well equipped to deal with the strain of multiple additional high-density developments. Left unchecked, decaying infrastructure burdened with unchecked densification, leads to significant, often irreversible, urban decay in the long run.
The city council has initiated a series of consultations, dealing with wide range of issues, including infrastructure, we are and will continue to raise our concerns through those channels, while we deal with individual cases in the context of the situation, we and a lot of our suburbs find ourselves in.
We believe that continuing and uncontested approval of high-density rezoning, within the rules of the Nodal review, is premature and should be delayed until the current infrastructure has been upgraded and can be proven to support higher density.
The CRA/Objectors approach, typically works as follows:
We normally receive a rezoning application (a so-called white notice) from the town planner we have on retainer. As a failsafe, we ask all residents to be vigilant and report any “white notices” displayed on properties, in the vicinity, to the CRA’s Town Planning (TP) team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through our Street rep network, we put out notification of the proposed new development. We request a resident affected by this volunteer to act as a point person to the CRA rep. This volunteer’s primary responsibility is to “spread the word” to as many potential interested/affected parties as possible.
An objectors’ communication channel will be set up by your CRA town planning, to keep residents up to date on developments. We will explain the objection process and be there to guide and support objectors.
We will engage with the developer and his/her town planner to try and reach an acceptable compromise and/or address objectors’ concerns to their satisfaction. The best solution is to reach an acceptable compromise to maintain our Village in a City, that is acceptable to all parties.
Should a hearing be warranted the objectors will be represented by the CRA (and its town planner if necessary).