Recently, we have been encouraged by certain comments suggesting that the City may be reconsidering whether to go ahead with the sale of the land at Princess Vlei to the developer.
In a radio interview on the Voice of the Cape Breakfast Show on 7 January, Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson said, “We are concerned about the decision taken 15 years ago, circumstances have changed, people’s views on what Princess Vlei should be have changed and we believe we have to explore different options now, we can’t simply proceed without full exploration.”
In an article in the Weekend Argus (January 12 2014), Ald. Nielson further said, “I will admit we have been fairly quiet on this matter, but I think now is the time to engage on a broader scale”.
We are delighted to hear that the City is considering alternatives, and again invite the City to consider the vision we have developed for Princess Vlei. This vision has emerged over years of consultation with the community and other relevant role players. The Princess Vlei Mall debacle arose through lack of consultation with the community and through a short-sighted appraisal of a valuable natural feature and heritage site. We trust that any further consideration of what should be done at Princess Vlei will be transparent and fully consultative with all interested and affected parties.
Up to now, the matter has been shrouded in mystery. For the past two years, our efforts to engage first with MEC Bredell (when he was still relevant) and later with the City have been met with little enthusiasm. Initially they were just ignored. In 2012, after the City declined to address our concerns, a complaint of fraud was laid with the Hawks against two of the developers by Kelvin Cochrane. The City then claimed that they could not engage with us because of this complaint, notwithstanding that the matter is not Sub Judice, Princess Vlei Forum is not the complainant, and the only parties actually implicated by the Hawks investigation are the developers.
This investigation has been cited as a reason to deny us a meeting with the Mayor; deny us the opportunity to present our vision for Princess Vlei to the relevant subcouncils; and deny our project recognition by the World Design Capital. It is unclear as to why the Hawks investigation precludes any discussion with or representation by Princess Vlei Forum, but does not inhibit ongoing negotiation with the developers who are the subject of the investigation – Ald. Nielson has made it clear that these negotiations continue.
It is also unclear who is party to these negotiations. The original company that was party to the agreements, Insight Property Developers Cape (1991/001666/07) was deregistered in 2010. We are confused as to why a different company should be able to lay claim to any agreements that were made with the original company.
This matter has dragged on for fifteen years, during which time the City has done little to manage or maintain the area - most improvements have been effected by volunteers. We urge the Mayoral Committee to come to a swift resolution on this matter, lay to rest the spectre of the mall development for once and for all, and work with us and other community partners to transform this site into a heritage park we can all delight in.
In both the Argus article and the Voice of the Cape article, Ald. Nielsen mentioned that the developers in question had spent “millions”. We would like to know what exactly the millions were spent on, and which company spent them.
We would also like to point out that the value of what would be lost should Princess Vlei be destroyed would greatly out-weigh the one or two million the developer spent. For example, the floods in Cape Town last year displaced several thousand residents, and, according to the Mayor as quoted in the Cape Times, cost the City over R3 million. Expert predictions suggest that with global warming such extreme weather occurrences will increase in the future. By compromising natural water systems which can mitigate against flooding, such as Princess Vlei, the City may be considerably increasing it’s own disaster management expenses. This is not even considering the heritage value and biodiversity value.