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Row over pathway

Residents in Nerina are irked about a permanent tarred pathway that will be built by the City of Cape Town through the green belt in their neighbourhood – giving permanence to the exact “informal” pathway they have been complaining about for years.

A total of 99 residents wrote objection letters to Theresa Uys, councillor for ward 112, to voice their disapproval.

The Nerina Work Group, which was formed in 2018 by residents to address the issues around the pathway, is also planning to get a legal opinion on the matter, as the adjacent residents never received any written notice of a public participation process that has been followed by the City.

The permanent pathway will be built from Plataan Road via Claasens Park to Primrose Crescent in Nerina.

It is part of the non-motorised transport (NMT) project in Durbanville, which is currently being constructed at a cost of R34,3million. The project is funded by the City’s public transport network grant.

This project entails the construction of new sidewalks, upgrading of existing sidewalks and existing cycle lanes to ensure that they are clearly demarcated and signed, as well as minor road upgrades to accommodate the new NMT routes in Fisantekraal, Durbanville and Bellville.

This tarred pathway in Nerina came as a blow in the face of the Nerina Work Group, which has complained about the thoroughfare of between 400 and 450 pedestrians daily on this “informal” pathway – mostly domestic workers, gardeners and staff working at Reddam House – to gain access to D’Urbanvale and Clara Anna Fontein via the Uitkamp wetland.

TygerBurger reported on their concerns since 2018 (“Wetlands the cause of woe for residents”, 16/05/2018 and “Plan for wetlands not welcomed”, 23/10/2018).

According to Brian Bellingfield, spokes­person for the Nerina Work Group, residents are concerned about an increase in crime and littering in their neighbourhood, especiallly by bin scratchers who also use the pathway on garbage days.

They use Claasens Park to sort their waste, leaving behind their unwanted rubbish. They also use the park as a toilet.

Criminals also disguise themselves among the pedestrians and there were a few instances in which pedestrians were assaulted or robbed on the pathway.

“In January last year over 76% of Nerina residents supported a petition to close the gate from Nerina to the wetland,” Bellingfield said in a media release to TygerBurger.

“The petition was submitted to subcouncil 7 with copies to the mayor’s office. To date our petition has been completely ignored,” Bellingfield said.

Two months later on 18 March the Nerina Work Group did a presentation to subcouncil 7 to pursue their issue (Gates a thorny issue”, 29/05/2019). They wanted the self-locking gates giving access to the wetland – situated in Primrose Crescent in Nerina and in Sunbird Crescent in D’Urbanvale – to be permanently closed to prevent the thoroughfare through their neighbourhood.

They suggested that the pedestrian traffic be redirected to enter D’Urbanvale along Koeberg Road – only about 200m longer than the shortcut through the wetland.

However, the closure of the gates was not approved.

Bellingfield said they were never consulted, part of any public participation process or even just informed that a permanent pathway was planned through the green belt in their neighbourhood.

According to him it was not even mentioned to them while they were in several meetings, during a site visit with Uys and even when they did their presentation to subcouncil.

The first they heard of it was three weeks ago when surveyors were seen to be measuring a pedestrian path through the Nerina green belt bordering Plataan Street, he said.

“Work was stopped when it was pointed out that their survey encroached an adjoining privately owned property,” he said.

Felicity Purchase, Mayco member for transport, said the aim of the project is to create sidewalks and cycle paths to benefit all residents in the area, especially the elderly, special needs people, children, scholars, cyclists and workers who often make use of the area and these routes.

“The City’s NMT policy seeks to encourage people to leave their cars at home and rather walk, run or cycle, if possible. This is particularly relevant currently as more and more people using public footways and cycle paths to exercise as gyms are closed. We suspect the increase in people working from home may lead to a change in people’s mobility patterns. It is the intention to accelerate the introduction of NMT projects across the City.

“During planning it was noted that pedestrians were continuously making use of informal paths, as well as children while riding their bikes. During winter these paths become muddy and workers in the area still use these paths to go to work. There was a need to make these public spaces safe and comfortable for these users throughout the year,” she said.

“The City aims to complete this project in July next year,” she said.

Bellingfield said to TygerBurger, mention is made in documents of a so-called Nerina Rate Payers Association, but “none of the objectors neither most people in Nerina were aware of the existence of such an organisation”. “We were not informed by ward councillor Uys or anyone else of the public participation process in 2018. Had we known, we would have submitted our objections.”

Uys said the public participation process was conducted by the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) and included an open day at the subcouncil on 9 April 2018 for ward 112 residents.

This was done from March to April 2018 – in the same time The Nerina Work Group approached subcouncil 7 with their concerns about the pedestrian traffic. Uys said invitations were sent to all community organisations on the subcouncil data base and the respective ward committee members.

“I once again want to encourage all community groups to register on the City data base to be informed of all City communication,” she said.

“The item was on the subcouncil agenda and ward committee agendas. At this past Monday’s ward committee meeting I raised the matter of the complaints and the committee supported the extensive project. The final decision has to be based on the opinion of all stakeholders, including the users of the public open spaces, policies and legislation”.

In response to the concerns about Claasens Park, Uys said she has motivated the appointment of a parkee to assist with maintenance, cleansing and reporting all suspicious behaviour.

“The project was delayed due to lockdown regulations, but the appointment for the new financial year is in progress. Ward 112 will benefit from the appointment of five parkees to do maintenance and monitor activities in various parks in the ward,” she said.

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