Save Harewood Avenue

Craig Donald,
Somerset West

Harewood Avenue is one of the most beautiful roads in Somerset West, being the original drive to Bakkerskloof Farm, and is lined with oak trees, many of which are very old. This avenue of trees is considered by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) heritage department to be a heritage resource.

The avenue is in danger of being ruined, as it is designated to be the main route for construction traffic accessing the housing estate which Helderberg College has applied to build on the lower slopes of Helderberg mountain. The resultant high volume of construction traffic will inevitably damage the oaks as the road is too narrow for lorries to pass safely.

On Friday January 25, three cement lorries met on Harewood Avenue and one of them had to reverse back as they could not pass each other. One large house is currently under construction on Farm 713/1 above Helderberg Estate and that day, some 30 cement lorries travelled along Harewood Avenue and back, i.e. 60 journeys. A further 40+ cement trucks took the same route on Tuesday April 2. In the intervening period, many other heavy vehicles have used Harewood Road to access the site.

The Helderberg College application is for almost 50 houses and will require 30 to 40 construction trucks per house (i.e. 60 to 80 truck journeys along Harewood Road). In addition, the site will first need to be cleared which will entail demolition and removal of the existing houses, garages and paved access roads, mature trees, and excess soil. Following this, the infrastructure of new roads, walls, gatehouse, etc will then need to be built.

In all, there will be thousands of trucks travelling Harewood Avenue in order to clear the site and build the housing estate.

When questioned about the suitability of Harewood Avenue for development traffic, the CoCT traffic department emailed Friends of Helderberg Estate as follows: “The traffic impact assessment compiled for the proposed development identified Harewood (Avenue) as being the more direct route when accessing Irene (Avenue)”.

The college planning application required a heritage impact assessment (HIA). The resulting report did not mention that access was proposed via Harewood Avenue, although (according to Friends of Helderberg Estate) the practitioner herself was aware of this. Thus the various heritage bodies which approved the HIA were not aware of the potential desecration of the oak trees.

Furthermore, the residents of Helderberg Estate were deprived of their opportunity to comment on any aspect of the heritage report because the conditions of approval relating to public notification were not met by the college (according to Friends of Helderberg Estate).

Please can common sense prevail and Harewood Avenue not be used as a rat-run for construction vehicles? Why can’t the college take the construction traffic through its own grounds?

After all, it is the college which stands to make considerable profit from the sale of the site.