Friends of Stellenbosch Mountain
The Big Picture: May-June 2019
The current crisis is the Eastern Link Road and a closely-related Urban Edge extension. At the meeting of 29 May, Council
approved a modified version of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and a brand-new Spatial Development Framework (MSDF). In accordance with legal requirements, the municipality
has been holding meetings and asking for public input, as they must. As presented at the Ward 21 IDP
meeting, the budget contains money for the Eastern Link Road even though this does not form part of any
approved planning document. At the same time, the draft MSDF contains an
extension of the Urban Edge to include the rest of Brandwacht Farm as well as a 20
hectare chunk of renosterveld around the Paradyskloof waterworks.
For the even-bigger picture, see the item Background: unsustainable development at the bottom of this page.
- Eastern Link Road
- The recent article in Eikestadnuus reveals yet again the 20th
century mindset which is still dominating the public discourse and management decisions. We will deal with the misconceptions and the mindset in due course. They are
wrong. It takes only a glance at the transport legislation and the MSDF and CITP itself to see that they are wrong.
As set out below, a completion of the Wildebosch-Trumali link makes no sense except as part of a bigger plan to have the entire Eastern Link Road completed, including
the link passing through Brandwacht and along Dalsig down to the Eerste River. The evidence that the entire Eastern Road Link IS being planned is incontrovertible,
despite all denials and despite the fact that it appears
nowhere in the MSDF or IDP. Here is the evidence:
pages 4 to 7 of the
full presentation given on 13 September 2018 of the draft Roads Master Plan, including maps
of the Wildebosch-Trumali link and the route through Brandwacht, on to Dalsig and
- One could argue that the September 2018 presentation is now obsolete. The MTREF version forming part of the 29 May 2019 Council Agenda does now refer to the
Schuilplaats Road extension. Nevertheless, the question remains: Why was the this slide presented at the 2
May 2019 Ward 21 IDP meeting which included explicit reference to that link?
That the Eastern Link Road is not off the agenda is shown in a set of comments provided on a seemingly unrelated matter, that of the Paradyskloof Nature Area
Environmental Management Plan. Item 7.6.1 of the Council meeting of 29 April 2019 contains comments by various
municipal departments on this. Comments in Section 6.8.1 of that item first again set out the three options of the Paradyskloof-Trumali Road link and then end
by There are various problems with each of these options and in order to study the best outcome, an amount has been placed on the 2019/20 budget to study these
proposals and provide a solution that will be able to solve the motorised and non-motorised traffic problems for the medium future. Each option should however be
investigated and for this reason the possibility of a Northern route of some kind should remain a possibility.
Strangely enough, the MTREF budget still budgets R3million over the next three years for
the Roads Master Plan which has no status, while
the important and legally mandatory Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan gets only R600,000 per year for 3 years. The real money in the budget continues to be
allocated to roads and road planning while a few crumbs are being tossed to public transport and NMT.
The Eastern Link Road, the Brandwacht urban edge extension and the waterworks extension are intimately linked as shown on
this map. The green lines represent existing roads, the purple and red ones
the components of the Eastern Link Road. The yellow line represents the 2018 Urban Edge; the orange one its proposed extension. Each of the three developments
would provide impetus to the other two: Completing the link between Wildebosch Road and Trumali Road (rightmost red line on the
map) would provide easy and convenient access to any new development on Brandwacht and to the Paradyskloof development, while inclusion into the Urban Edge of one
or both of these would provide additional traffic pressures and thereby additional motivation to have the Eastern Link Road completed.
- Building only the Wildebosch-Trumali link makes no traffic sense or economic sense at all, as the developer's own consultants set out in detail
on 18 June 2016 and updated on 27 July 2018. It would imply
upgrading a larger section of Trumali Road in addition to the link. It would lengthen the commuting distances of users. It would not relieve pressure on the R44 since
all that traffic would have to enter or re-enter the R44 at the Trumali Road junction.
The Wildebosch-Trumali link now appearing in the budget was motivated by the entirely "unrelated" imminent development of three smallholdings along Paradyskloof Road
called Farm 372 Welgegund. Briefly, the provincial government sent two separate but very
similar letters to the two developers, one day apart, requiring as a precondition the construction of a road between
Paradyskloof and Trumali Roads. Approvals for an extension of Schuilplaats Road were then sought and given. However, the Stellenbosch Municipal Planning Tribunal
altered that proposal. Both Schuilplaats residents and the Farm 372 developers objected, leading to a situation where the Eastern Link Road is now being funded because
both objectors would be satisfied while the Eastern Link Road agenda would be advanced by a major step. More detail on the connection between Farm 372 and the Eastern
Link can be found here. Read also the appropriate sections of the FSM Addendum of 2
May 2019 and the FSM Comments of 8 May 2019.
- We note that no cognizance was taken of municipal transport planning in the entire process: Roads, intersections, routes etc etc were and still are discussed as if
the MSDF did not exist. A small development leads to DTPW requiring a new road link, and that requirement now trumps all planning and principles.
- References to NMT and bicycles in the context of the
Eastern Link Road are meaningless. A glance at the 5m contour map should make that clear. An Eastern Link Road
would start at an elevation of about 150m at Wildebosch Road, rise to 190m on the spur of the KWV vineyard hill, drop down to 160m at Brandwacht On River, rise back up
to 180m immediately north of Brandwacht suburb, and then drop to 110m at the Eerste River. That rollercoaster may be fun for recreational mountain biking, but no NMT
commuter would dream of taking such a route on a daily basis.
- Two possible alternatives can be debunked immediately. (1) "Let's just level the road" Eliminating the rises and falls would require either cutouts 30m-50m
deep into the KWV and Brandwacht hills, with corresponding environmental and economic implications, or tunnels. (2) "Why not reroute the road to run along a contour
line?" Re-routing the Wildebosch-Trumali link to lie along a contour would imply a large westward deviation, corresponding lengthening of the route, and then the
problem of ending up at a T-junction directly opposite Brandwacht On River. Both alternatives are nonstarters.
There appear to be only two rational solutions: (1) Build the Schuilplaats Road extension as planned and approved in the EIA and other processes, or (2) abandon any
thoughts of linking Paradyskloof and Trumali Roads by having the provincial government retract its two link-building requirement
letters which constitute unwarranted interference in Stellenbosch municipal planning.
- Urban Edge extension
Anyone who reads the draft MSDF will be impressed by the conceptual unity, the conformance with modern concepts of town
planning such as Transit Oriented Development, the clear direction given to future development, protection of natural and culturally significant areas etc. It
focuses heavily on the solutions of the future: high-density development near the railway stations, directing future developments towards Klapmuts and along the Baden
Powell corridor and public transport. A part of that overall concept is a tight so-called Urban Edge, ie a line delimiting those areas within which urban development
is considered appropriate.
The proposed extension of the urban edge is inconsistent with all these concepts and
principles: it includes a nature area with a critically endangered ecosystem, it impacts on agricultural land, and it provides for the development synergy set out
above. Again, it was kept rather quiet. In the MSDF itself, there is only an oblique reference to Paradyskloof, while Brandwacht is not mentioned at all. The map
showing this extension (Figure 28 of the MSDF) was available, but this major change was not pointed out at public meetings. At the public meeting on 2 May in Ward 21
(which encompasses these areas), the extension was not shown or mentioned in the presentation.
- Appendix A of the 8 May FSM Comments provides a detailed comparison of the MSDF Key Considerations
- A detailed discussion of the related biodiversity issues can be found in Section 3.2 of the same FSM Comments
The argument that the Urban Edge does not grant any development rights is formally true and still a lie. The fact is that inclusion or exclusion into the Urban
Edge forms a major criterion when a development proposal is assessed. Independent of all the other processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments and rezoning,
inclusion into the Urban Edge represents a major change in the de facto developability of an area.
- Roads Master Plan versus legally compliant planning
The Stellenbosch Road system and specific projects such as the
proposed R44 "upgrades" and the
Western Bypass have long been controversial. In earlier years, there had been attempts to ram through the Western Bypass but that has
been reduced (for the moment) to a smaller component, the Western Link Road between the R44-Technopark intersection and the R310.
The MSDF considers these road proposals a relic of the past. It only mentions the Western Bypass as a proposal and is
completely silent on the Eastern Link Road. The Eastern Link Road (formerly called the North-South Road) is not mentioned at all in
the MSDF or in the various public meetings.
At the September 2018 meeting of the Stellenbosch Mobility Forum, extracts of a so-called Roads Master Plan
were presented which included all of the above, including the Eastern Link Road.
The Roads Master Plan has no status in law. If at all, its only role would be that of a minor study ("sectoral plan") to get
some facts. As the diagram in the article makes clear, it is subordinate to
the IDP, MSDF and CITP (the overall transport plan).
The Roads Master Plan has not been released, but the presentation itself says it all. Billed as a revision of an earlier one, it and its predecessor were both drawn
up independently of the IDP and MSDF.
However, all indications are that the municipality is using the Roads Master Plan, not the MSDF or CITP, as its guide for its strategic decisions on
infrastructure. Roads, intersections, routes etc etc were and still are discussed as if the MSDF did not exist.
- Background: unsustainable development
Stellenbosch has always been special. The town is well endowed in many ways and the local government functions better than in most other South African towns.
Everyone wants to live here, from the humble work-seeker to the billionaire.
The shortage of land suitable for housing has caused property prices in the suburbs to be so high that most people working here cannot afford to live here.
Climate change and the resultant drought, difficult agricultural conditions, the stagnation of the national economy have created big
incentives for farm and smallholding owners to convert their land into housing. For the relatively small effort of getting an application for a high-income housing
estate approved, the land owner is rewarded with immense wealth. A look at Figure 17 in the
draft MSDF tells the story of formal and informal applications in the last few years.
Because of high property prices and the shortage of land, many people have to commute into town. There are also many who commute from Stellenbosch to Cape Town. A
dysfunctional rail and public transport system (with the exception of the taxi industry) means that commuting currently means driving. Roads leading into Stellenbosch
are often congested during peak hours. Most commuters see cars as a necessity, despite the high cost of petrol.
As a result, there is tremendous pressure for development, both of the land and the road system.
Apart from the land owners, this development pressure has attracted contractors and consultants such as TV3,
ICE group and similar firms who make a living off this kind of development.
Gated estates, urban sprawl and roads are all preferred modes of this development. These are unsustainable and cannot be tolerated anymore.
The legislation is clear that the future lies elsewhere.
- The principal legal instruments (IDP etc) of Stellenbosch development all agree with this legislation and set out in detail wonderful principles, plans and
strategies how to do this. But the old habits and incentives for unsustainable development are still stronger: These plans and principles are not being applied;
instead, the old mindset and the lure of wealth continue to prevail. A few minor improvements are made and a little money is allocated towards the goal of
sustainability, but by far the largest fraction of effort and the available capital budget still goes towards actions which violate these principles and goals.