Hout Bay ward councillor Roberto Quintas has moved to allay confusion over the new electricity substation and depot being built in Panorama Hill.
Following the violent clash between Hangberg residents and police over land grabs near Hangklip in 2010, the City struck a deal with residents, called the Peace Accord, promising to identify land for housing.
So when work started on the substation and depot on land meant for housing in Panorama Hill, it led to confusion and tension.
Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hout Bay Civic Association, accused the City of keeping the community in the dark.
“The land was bought for housing and in the Peace Accord – which binds the City and the Peace and Mediation Forum – it states that the land was bought to build community residential units, which are flats,” said Mr Jacobs.
“But they have not communicated what they going to do with the land and what it was intended for. There was no public meeting… and now there’s also a possibility that people may go to the streets and we’ve seen what unguided protests have done. As a community, we want to engage with the City, and we feel that they can’t just make decisions in a boardroom behind closed doors. Our interest is to have houses built and we think the depot can be built at the fire station. We also know the Peace and Mediation Forum has made an application for a recycling depot… so there’s a lot of confusion on what they are building there,” he said.
But that’s not how Peace and Mediation Forum chairman Jan Lewis sees things.
Mr Lewis said he had been at all the public meetings last year when City officials and the ward councillor had explained why houses could not be built, and why a depot and substation were needed instead.
“The City have already explained everything to us, and many of the people are already aware of what’s being built there. It’s just a misunderstanding because there were members of the community who were not present at those meetings,” said Mr Lewis.
“Yes, that land was earmarked for housing, but there was a problem from the environmental department who came out to assess the land and issued a report which said that the land was not suitable for housing. They said we can use it for other purposes like recycling or a depot.
“The City has been here for community meetings about two or three times last year, and in those meetings they explained to the community about the situation and about the report from the environmental department,” he said.
Mr Lewis added that the City had since identified an alternative site for housing. He added that there was an electricity problem in Hangberg.
“The court order says they need to build about 350 houses… so far they’ve built about 74 houses in Sea View and need to build more according to the Peace Accord agreement.
“We do also have an electricity problem and people want to have those boxes installed in their homes, and at others the electricity always trips. So we need to upgrade the electricity system,” said Mr Lewis.
Meanwhile, Mr Quintas said in a statement that the City stood by its promise to provide housing and the essential rollout of adequate, stable power and capacity for the community.
“Four sites were identified for potential housing developments. The first site, Phase 1 was utilised for Sea Views, which benefited 70-plus Hangberg families who moved into the units in 2015/16.
“Phase 2 is currently under way now, with budget approved, consultants appointed and the steering committee to be formulated in the next few weeks,” said Mr Quintas.
“This current second phase will provide two housing developments: one where the current Dallas temporary relocation area is located and the other below the Sentinel Primary School.
“The fourth housing site, which is next to Panorama Hills, and below Dallas formal cottages would form Phase 3 and is not as yet budgeted for but is very much a consideration as a future project after Phase 2 is well under way.
“The atmospheric emissions from Oceana which prevented initial development may be considerably lower as a result of the new stack scrubbers and as such that site is very much a consideration for the future,” he said.
Mr Quintas said the Hangberg community had grown over the years and a new larger substation was necessary for future housing developments.
“The City cannot build more housing and provide more electricity connections for those and others without the new station and with the current load capacity as it is.
“The four housing sites were discussed many times with the community in various public meetings, and the site in front of Panorma Hills was mentioned on several occasions as a potential essential services electricity substation and depot.
“The community gains in the medium term two new housing developments and increased access to electricity via an improved and more stable grid by the construction of this substation, which would also be able to support Phase 3 when the time and budget are available in the longer term,” he said.