City tackles pipe track closure

Many hikers have been questioning the new fence that has been erected at the famous pipe track.

The closure of the popular pipetrack in Hout Bay has caused a number of heated debates among locals and hikers.

From time to time, this pipe track has been used as a detour to avoid the congestion on Main Road. After concerns reached the City of Cape Town, it was determined that there were major issues around the fencing.

The City’s Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, confirmed that the City’s Development Management Department had taken enforcement action, by serving a notice on the owners earlier this year, requiring the submission of a building plan within 60 days as no building plans had been submitted to the City.

“The current fence will also result in an admin penalty, if it is retained, as it exceeds the permitted height in terms of the Development Management Scheme in the City’s Municipal Planning By-law,” she explained.

The City has a pipeline servitude over the property which was later amended to provide for a general access servitude in favour of the City of Cape Town. The City’s Water Services and Electricity department also have services in this servitude and access was now permitted by security to City officials for work access when required.

City of Cape Town spokesman, Luthando Tyhalibongo, said the access was not meant to provide easy access to the public even though the “pipe track” had been used by the public for some time.

He added that the owners had decided to fence in the property due to the threat of land invasions, after four illegal dwellings had been removed from the site in the past.

“The future Hout Bay High Level road follows a route more or less below this servitude, but no rights over the property have been obtained as yet,” Mr Tyhalibongo said.

“Any further development on the property would need to take this into account. The future high level road will provide an alternate and safer route for both vehicles and cyclists. Although the plans for this roads projects are included in the current Transport Master Plan, the timeline for this project is unknown and will depend on the availability of budget.”

Sentinel News could not track down the owners of the property for comment.

Meanwhile, locals remained puzzled as to why such a popular route would be closed off to the public.

Hout Bay local, Chippie Steel, said they had tried to gather information about the work being carried out on the site, but were unable to.

“We have asked the person we believe to be the developer what is happening there, but he was evasive and said he knew nothing about it. So we are trying to find out what is being done there,” Mr Steel said.

Amanda Cottling has been using the pipe track for many years as the start of a hiking route and was angered to find it had been closed.

“Every morning I would walk my dogs through that pipe track and we became so used to it,” she said, describing it as “a well used space and something that actually adds value to our area”.

“It not only helps with traffic flow, but at the same time, it is well used among the hiking community and I think that needs to be respected,” she added.

Ms Cottling suggested that an entrance and exit point be created, acknowledging the potential threat of illegal land invasions.

“It is a real concern and by no means are we playing this down, but to close it off completely and shut everybody out is simply not right. If this was something that was not used or just recently used, maybe understood, but this has been open for many years and it is well known,” Ms Cottling said.

In a letter to Sentinel News, Richard Poulter from Tokai said: “This basically by-passes the very narrow, bendy, dangerous and overloaded road down to Hout Bay which for literally generations has offered a safe passage for hikers, horse riders and cyclists. As long as I can remember, this has been open and I am now in my 70s.”

He explained that about 40 years ago, he had a City Blueprint for Hout Bay which clearly showed that the track was designated by the City planners as “a new major access road by-passing the existing one”.

“I am under the impression that South African law states that an access road that is over 50 years old becomes public property, and I would think that track has been in use for at least that time,” Mr Poulter added.

Ward councillor and Mayco member for transport, Roberto Quintas, said the matter was handled by the building inspectorate, who has dealt with the matter by serving notice on the owner to submit building plans for the unauthorised erection of a fence.

“No plans were submitted by the due date and the City is now handing the matter over to its Legal Process Office to take to court,” he confirmed.