At a multi-party stakeholders’ meeting in the municipal auditorium on Monday morning, only one group was ready to present their proposal for a future housing development on the Schulphoek land.

The meeting, chaired by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, followed on the previous stakeholders’ meeting held in Hermanus on 18 March, when a draft concept was presented by Makeka Architects on behalf of the Western Cape Government (Design proposal for Schulphoek housing development, The Village NEWS, 20 March).

Several of the stakeholders, including the ANC and Zwelihle Renewal, said that a week was too short a time for them to get feedback from their members on such an important development and asked for a postponement until 8 April.  

A group calling themselves the New Harbour Precinct (NHP), representing both businesses and residents in and around the New Harbour, presented their proposal for the development of Schulphoek. According to Willem van Zyl, who did the presentation, all their members are in agreement that the land needs to be developed based on the Better Living Model, which makes provision for the development of affordable housing only.

“We are happy with the plan that was presented at a previous meeting, but we feel that a few changes need to be incorporated. The access roads to the area, as well as the road linking town with Sandbaai need to be reconsidered. In our opinion the thoroughfares should run along existing roads in Zwelihle and the number of roads linking the area to town and Sandbaai need to be increased.

“If the current extension of Church Street through Schulphoek is used, it will create high traffic volumes that will endanger the large number of pedestrians in the area,” he said.

In addition, the NHP proposed the building of a skills centre on the corner of Still and Church Streets. “The development of this centre will be funded in part by the abalone farms in the area and will be used in upskilling people to turn, amongst other things, abalone shells into artworks or other useable items.”

The NHP also proposed creating gardens along some of the routes to help beautify the area, especially along Church and Still Streets. This in turn would assist in stabilising the property prices in an area that has seen a significant drop in property values, according to the proposal.

Van Zyl said the NHP is also in favour of the proposed desalination plant that is planned in Church Street next to the Abagold farm. “This is the best possible place for such a development, as sea water is already being pumped to the area by the abalone farms. The cost of extracting water from the ocean is one of the largest for a desalination plant and this area already offers that.”

He said that the land located next to the proposed desalination plant will be the perfect spot for the creation of an abalone farm for the community of Zwelihle. “The existing abalone farms have already indicated that they will not only assist in setting up a mariculture farm on that piece of land, but that they will also buy all the products it produces. This will create a win-win situation for all involved,” said Van Zyl.

In addition to this, the NHP also proposed that a piece of the Schulphoek land be bought on which to develop a People’s Housing Programme (PHP). PHP programmes are aimed at people who qualify for subsidised affordable housing, but instead of the subsidy being paid to a bank, the money is transferred to the owners, who are then responsible for building their own house and paying for the labour themselves.

Premier Helen Zille said at the meeting that the proposed Better Living development for Schulphoek is vital for both the economy of Hermanus and that of the region. “Hermanus is pivotal in the economy of the Southern Cape and if this economy fails, it will have negative ramifications for all the other towns in the area.

“For that reason, we need to create this development so that it can alleviate the pressure in the housing market for those people who qualify for affordable housing, and thereby stimulate economic growth.”

In previous meetings with the multi-party stakeholders is was agreed by all parties that the Better Living Model will be followed for any development on the Schulphoek land. This means that the more upmarket units will subsidise the lower-priced units.

Zille said that the government and other stakeholders are committed to make experts available to any group who needs assistance with the formulation of their proposal.

“We need the buy-in of all the parties involved to make this a reality. I am making myself available to assist with that and should I be asked by Alan Winde, DA Premier candidate for the Western Cape, to keep on driving this project during my retirement, I will do so.

“What we need is for stakeholders to stop finding problems for all the solutions we come up with. This one development will not solve all the housing problems in the Overstrand, but it will go a long way in creating a model that can be replicated throughout the region. We all agreed that this development will be for affordable housing only, as the cost of the development will be too high to make provision for free housing. Even the national government is moving away from the idea of creating free housing for people. It is simply too expensive.

“If we fail at making this development a reality, the consequences for Hermanus would be dire. What we would end up with is a situation where Schulphoek is filled with shacks. If that happens there is no way that we can even supply basic services to the people, as it is forbidden by law for any sphere of government to supply services to dwellings on private property. Not only will this be bad for the people living there, it would be equally bad for those living next to such an area. Therefore, we need the assurance that the continued erection of shacks in the area will cease immediately,” Zille said.

Theron Mqhu of Zwelihle Renewal said the organisation is committed to the development of the Schulphoek land and to the halting of the erection of new shacks. “We are, however, opposed to the development of a desalination plant or an mariculture farm in the area. It seems as if these things that are not wanted in other areas are simply dumped in Zwelihle,” he said.

All the stakeholders committed to presenting their development ideas at a meeting on 8 April.

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