At a general meeting in March this year, Fay Howa (Conservation manager of Princess Vlei, City Parks) and David Gretton (Executive Support Officer to the Mayoral Member for Community Services and Special Projects.) confirmed that the City is willing to liaise with the Princess Vlei Forum as a "Friends" type community custodianship group in the transformation and management of Princess Vlei.
The City has been drawing up a plan for Princess Vlei, based on the community vision presented by the Forum, as well as on its own management priorities. Once this proposal has been approved by the relevant City departments, and considered by the Forum, the Forum will work with the City on enabling a process of thorough and meaningful community engagement. The Forum is strongly committed to ensuring that any decisions regarding Princess Vlei are taken with active community consultation. We have been informed by the City that these proposals will be available for discussion in June.
Since its inception in 2012 to co-ordinate efforts to prevent the mall proposed for Princess Vlei, the Forum has grown steadily, and now has a support base of 900 people on its mailing list, and an active membership of over 90 individuals and organisations. This includes local civic organisations, WESSA, schools, and religious and cultural groups.
A critical part of the Forum’s work has been not only to stop the mall, but to ensure that Princess Vlei is developed and managed under the guidance of the community. The Forum has therefore been committed to building a broad-based, transparent and democratic organisation that can gather the views of interested groups, facilitate the formulation of a community vision for the space, and act as liaison between the City and the community. For this work, the Princess Vlei Forum was recognised as a World Design Capital project on Community-led design, and received an award from the International Association of Public Participation.
Through the campaign a vision emerged of how Princess Vlei could best serve the surrounding community as a natural recreational site, celebrating the Khoisan cultural heritage of the site, its environmental beauty and rich diversity, its spiritual value as a baptism site, its educational value as an outdoor classroom, and its recreational and community building value as a public space. Several workshops were held and an online survey conducted to canvass views on this.
These ideas were consolidated and presented to the City in March 2014, at the historic meeting where Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson announced that in response to the community efforts, the plans for the mall had been scrapped. Since then, the Princess Vlei Forum has been in ongoing dialogue with Alderman Walker’s office to explore ways not only to transform Princess Vlei, but to enable meaningful community engagement in its management. As Princess Vlei is a complex site, involving several City departments, the process has been frustratingly laborious, but we have been assured that the draft plan will be available shortly for review.