Shared Values to be the Foundations of Sustainable Development at Oude Molen Village Print E-mail

Published in the March issue of Progress Magazine published by Picasso Headlines, South Africa
Article by Peta Harrowsmith
The vision for Oude Molen Village (OMV) to become a Sustainable Development Showcase is not new. In 1999 residents were awarded the Green Trust Award for Urban Renewal. The judges said “We were impressed by the holistic approach of the operation, with its objectives such as providing rehabilitation and occupational therapy for hospital and out-patients, entrepreneurial opportunities for disadvantaged communities and emphasizing sound environmental values. A balance has been struck between environmental and community upliftment, and heritage conservation.’

The vision for Oude Molen Village (OMV) to become a Sustainable Development Showcase is not new. In 1999 residents were awarded the Green Trust Award for Urban Renewal. The judges said “We were impressed by the holistic approach of the operation, with its objectives such as providing rehabilitation and occupational therapy for hospital and out-patients, entrepreneurial opportunities for disadvantaged communities and emphasizing sound environmental values. A balance has been struck between environmental and community upliftment, and heritage conservation.’ In 2002 Oude Molen Village Association (OMVA) was awarded partial funding from WSSDs Greening the Summit to install individual electrical meters, solar water heating panels and (eventually) biogas digesters. The project was supported by the city of Cape Town who endorsed it as a pilot project for their renewable energy strategy.

It is early days for the plans of OMV but this problem-child is set to be an example that will put other developments to shame. Ideally situated for development just 7km from the heart of Cape Town, it is surrounded by industrial areas and close to public transport.

Over the past 6 years the department of Property Management has repeatedly applied to rezone OMV as an office park. With rezoning pending, Property Management ceased the renewal of leases, but rezoning applications were repeatedly blocked when they did not fulfill Environmental and Social Impact Assessment requirements. Residents were left hanging with an uncertain future, so in an effort to protect their rights, they formed the Oude Molen Village Association (OMVA).

Fearing eviction, OMVA member and practicing green architect, Andy Horn approached Mark Swilling of the Sustainability Institute (SI) last year and asked him to intervene. Their negotiations led to the SI’s official appointment by the Provincial Government of Western Cape (PGWC) in October 2005 to manage the development process. By November 2005, Swilling had successfully founded a forum of stakeholders for conflict resolution and the establishment of a development strategy. At the opening of the Oude Molen Forum, MEC Fransman said that the land had been earmarked for a project that would “combine biodiversity conservation and urban development.”

The forum is to build the foundations for a fully integrated, sustainable development plan. Integration to OM Villagers means mixed income and cultural groups, business with residential and agricultural and the natural environment – all of which is, although limited, already in place. Chairperson of OMVA, Anzu Philips said “The point of the planning process is mostly to accommodate stakeholders and our neighbors from Maitland Garden Village. Something must be done to regularize overpopulation of areas that are adjacent to relatively open land.”

When asked how they manage to foster tolerance between the diverse cultural and income groups, SI facilitator John van Breda said “We build trust through dialogue. We look for commonalities and build on them, not that we overlook differences, but the focus is on shared values. We hope that this will result in a vibrant governance system with a solid basis.” Van Breda has set up offices on site where he is facilitating the implementation of a New Lease Agreement, which will act as the starting point for introducing a governance system.

Anzu Philips said that his vision for the village was to see more of what was already in place. Although van Breda believes that it “needs fine tuning”, the key document prepared by Swilling “towards a Realistic Strategic Development Approach for Oude Molen” (SDA) establishes a framework for achieving the vision of OM as a sustainable neighborhood. A major focus will be on restoring the current buildings to their former architectural glory whilst, at the same time, ensuring that all new buildings complement the old. In this regard the SDA makes provision for restoring the 300 yr Old Manor House to become a place for celebrating the rich cultural diversity associated with the site. The Gaia Waldorf School, currently occupying the Manor House, will then have to be relocated to the frail care unit, Robin Trust, who will in turn move into new, yet to be designed buildings.

In the long term, no waste is to leave the site. Cape Town has the most recycling plants in the country, which makes waste separation a viable option. Said Anzu Phillips,”the Athlone sewerage system has reached full capacity. OMV intends to process all sewerage waste on site through a variety of systems such as Biogas digesters (which would generate compost and cooking gas) and a water recycling system with constructed wetland filters”.

OM Villagers would like OM to stay a green zone. The vision is for higher density dwellings along Alexander Rd with pedestrian corridors through the village in order to leave more open space along the riverbank and the edge of the wetlands. The number of dwellings will be limited to the carrying capacity of their waste disposal systems. Gary Glass, founder of the organic farm in 1996, says that Oude Molen is “a way of showing people the past and a way into the future.”

 
Nieuwoudtville Award

Eco Design Architects was awarded the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction 2005 & took silver in the Africa and Middle East Region for their designs for the Nieuwoudtville Caravan Site Upgrade

Click here for more info on the award.

 

Mamre Revitalization Project is an initiative by the City of Cape Town to promote the preservation and restoration of Mamre’s rich heritage resources, while helping to alleviate poverty and promote skills transfer. Eco Design Architects have been appointed by the city to assist the community with this project. Click here for more info or go to Mamre Revitalization Project Website