Civic AGM focuses on densification in the area

Rosebank and Mowbray Civic Association chairperson, Jonathan Hobday

Recently elected Ward 57 councillor Paddy Chapple will be taking no prisoners in ensuring extensive densification projects being undertaken in Mowbray and Rosebank are carried out according to proper procedure.

Addressing the Rosebank and Mowbray Civic Association (RMCA) annual general meeting at St George’s Grammar School on Wednesday October 12, Mr Chapple said he was acutely aware of residents’ concerns over the development of student accommodation in particular.

There has been growing discontent among residents over an apparent determination on the part of the City to grant large-scale developments without recognising the impact these will have on the area.

“The rules must be adhered to. Act 25 of the National Heritage Act supersedes any City policy on densification, and I will ensure this will be enforced,” Mr Chapple said.

“At the moment, there is a plan to look at building plans on a case by case basis, but that is wrong. You need to look at the accumulative effect of all the building plans.”

RMCA chairperson Jonathan Hobday said residents felt “frustrated and abused” by the planning authorities and had an ominous sense that developers enjoyed a paramount position at planning levels that overrides the “sensibilities and concerns of communities”.

Mr Chapple added he was fed up with a lack of response from various City departments when issues were brought to his attention.

“It is embarrassing that we have to repeatedly make submissions without the issues being addressed. This is standard service delivery, and the best lesson now is to be Josef Stalin instead of Mother Theresa in order to get this right.”

He said there were suggestions to “regularise illegal and unauthorised building”.

“That makes no sense at all. It is simple: policy cannot supersede national legislation.”

Though not a development as such, there have also been concerns that the Mowbray Town Hall will be sold, but the councillor confirmed that while an approach had been made by UCT, the property had not been sold.

“It is important that we make use of the hall. It remains the property of the City, and we should advertise it properly,” he said.

To this end, a Mowbray Town Hall committee has been established to explore in what ways the hall can be utilised.

In his chairperson’s report, Mr Hobday discussed recent developments within the area, notably the advent of the Little Mowbray and Rosebank Improvement District (LMRID) Special Ratings Area and the future of neighbourhood watches.

“There is a perception abroad in the community at the moment, in the wake of the creation of the LMRID that neighbourhood watches in this area are now no longer relevant nor necessary and can be scrapped. This is a misguided view and potentially damaging to the integrity of our community,” Mr Hobday said.

“Indeed, it is my firm contention that neighbourhood watches have never been more important than they are right now.”

Not only were neighbourhood watches the recognised, legitimate and democratic channels for gaining access to and networking with primary governing structures at municipal and provincial level, but they were also the “building-blocks” that underpinned the next level of community organisation, such as the civic associations and the community police forums, he said.

A little more than a month ago, the Western Cape government gazetted the new Community Safety Regulations, which provide for the formal registration of neighbourhood watches.

“I urge all neighbourhood watches in our area to take urgent note of this development and to seek registration by the deadline of October 31. There are good reasons for this – formal registration is not just a pre-requisite for recognition, it is also a pre-requisite for access to funding or facilities from both provincial and municipal departments,” he said.

He added that in the suburbs that were now part of an SRA, the neighbourhood watches became a crucial community channel for ensuring proper representation on the LMRID board, ensuring ongoing oversight of LMRID’s management and as a vehicle for the community to contribute to the effective running of the LMRID.

Another pressing issue, Mr Hobday said, was the issue of safety and security which was making residents feel “deeply uneasy”.

“There is a continued spike in the incidence of house-breakins and robberies. We are fortunate to have an extremely dedicated and efficient police force operating in our area and we should be grateful to them for the work that they do to keep the tide of crime under control,” he said.

“However, it is clear that our suburbs are constantly the focus of criminal activity, not least because of our relative affluence and accessibility. We should also note that our police station remains understaffed – the thin blue line is often stretched almost to breaking-point – and that budget cuts by UCT have greatly reduced the service that was once provided by the GSCID.” There was some good news, however, as the advent of the LMRID had resulted in enhanced patrolling of the Little Mowbray and Rosebank areas. “Residents of Little Mowbray have also instituted regular citizen patrols. These steps will, I am sure, have a salutary effect in containing crime.”