Character of town changing

Franz Schaefer, Heldervue

After moving to Somerset West from Cape Town some five years ago I can’t help but notice how its “quiet country town” character is changing – irreversibly so, it would appear.

My impression is that the town is hanging on by its fingernails as it becomes the victim of rampant urban sprawl and the “building site syndrome”.

The traffic pattern is certainly an indicator of this as current infrastructure battles to cope with an ever-increasing volume of vehicles. Intersections which were never problematic in the recent past now present traffic jams to local commuters. How long before the town is paralysed by traffic grid? Also, driving behaviour in our town shows that many motorists appear to be stressed and unable to focus on what they are doing. Indifference to the rules of the road and many near-misses in shopping centre parking areas attest to this phenomenon.

Another sign of the price of urban sprawl, in my opinion, is the frequency of the sound of emergency vehicle sirens. This is rapidly becoming part of the normal daily ambience. I hear them going off with monotonous regularity – day and night, irrespective of fire season or festive season.

If the sound of emergency vehicle sirens is a yardstick, questions arise about Somerset West’s crime and road accident rate. I am sure this would have statisticians sitting up.

Finally, I sympathise with Friends of Helderberg Estate and their concern about development on land belonging to Helderberg College.

This kind of “progress” not only escalates urban sprawl but also hastens the demise of our beautiful town’s very soul.

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