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Urban Planning in the Twentieth Century
Urban Planning Policy Foreshore Cape Flats
Urban Planning Policy
Although the early Dutch town was laid out on a grid pattern, the British allowed the city to grow organically in the hands of developers. By the twentieth century, this was considered haphazard and expensive.

There were two very different foreign influences on town planning during the early twentieth century. The first was the British 'garden city' movement that led to the establishment of Pinelands, and it was hoped that the successor of Ndabeni (Langa), would be designed in the same way. This however was not the case as 'control' became the operative concept. 'Maitland Garden Village' was an attempt to provide urban infrastructure in this style for the coloured community, and was admired by some.

The second influence was a more practical, cost-effective form of building popular in America that emphasised large spaces for industry, commerce and residential areas and the use of stark materials such as concrete. It also favoured zoning areas for particular purposes, e.g. commerce or industry.

The main aims of Cape Town planners during the first half of the twentieth century was public health and the maintenance of social order. Racial segregation was seen as an important means to achieve these. Prior to 1927 the authority for town planning was split between different local and central institutions, and it was only once a town planning ordinance was passed (1927) and a town planning department established (1934, attached to the City Engineer's Department) that comprehensive urban zoning began in earnest (1941).

Following the National Party's election victory in 1948, came a concerted effort at urban planning aimed at achieving complete 'separate development'. The motivation for this came from central government who were keen to co-operate with local authorities in achieving their aims, but would over-ride their plans if necessary.

During the 1960s Caltex Oil and Fedmis fertiliser factories were erected in the outskirts of the city in Milnerton because their products were defined as 'noxious'. Montagu Gardens Industrial Area, as well as Beaconvale and Parow Industria all grew up in the 1960s.

The practice of separating townships from older areas of the city, and from each other, by the strategically positioning of industrial areas, railway lines and roads followed the norms of American 'neighbourhood units'.

Many other colonial cities, and American cities, were racialised in this way. However Cape Town was different because the planning authorities were aware that they might have to use force to keep the racial boundaries and maintain a superior position for whites.

Meanwhile, in the Northern suburbs, Afrikaners benefitted from economic privilege and prosperity after the Second World War. Middle class residential areas appeared on the slopes of Tygerberg, and areas like Bellville attracted the headquarters of large Afrikaans companies such as Sanlam. In 1975, a Dutch Reformed Church was built in Bellville, and was the largest in the Cape.

Atlantis, to the north of Cape Town, was planned in 1977 as a huge development for coloureds - an 'ethnocity' - to house 500,000 people by the year 2010. Very high unemployment, however, curtailed the growth of the new area and today it is associated with poverty and failed social engineering.
The Foreshore
In 1937 the decision to reclaim the foreshore was made. The South African Railways and Harbours (SAR&H) and the city council took charge of the venture.

SAR&H appointed two advisers (F Lonstreth Thomson, a well-known British planner, and Prof. L.W. Thornton White of UCT) and the municipality drew on the services of a French planner E.E. Beaudouin, who was given leave from the army by the French government who considered it an honour for France to have him working in Cape Town. He brought French influence including a love of sweeping vistas and wide boulevards.

Dredging and land-filling began in 1937 and progressed steadily until the largest dry dock in the southern hemisphere was opened with much fanfare in 1945.

The development of the foreshore in the 1950s and 60s was plagued by disagreement about priorities. Among these were the need to ensure good traffic flow, the desire for broad boulevards and an open vista for the 'Gateway to Africa'.

The resulting compromise were wide roads that cut the foreshore up into windy stretches and asphalt and concrete car parks that were inaccessible to pedestrians. Gaps between skyscrapers created wind tunnels that could blow buses over.

The result was a virtually lifeless city centre in the evenings, with the exception of a few bars and restaurants popular with visiting sailors, and prostitutes standing on street corners.

With the success of the Waterfront the development of the foreshore began to gather fresh impetus. Very large hotels were built in the late 1990s, and the impressive Cape Town International Convention Centre opened in late 2003. The city planted trees and improved the windswept 'Herrengracht' boulevard. Modern office blocks filled in the formally desolate gaps. At last the foreshore became a proud part of the city.
Cape Flats
In 1924 the Slums Act was passed enabling the government to acquire slum properties for demolition or development. However, during the late 1930s the council began to draw up plans to remodel the city's slums and remove their inhabitants to land along the Klipfontein Road where a 'garden city' was to be created offering schools, churches and recreational facilities.

Housing became a contentious issue in Cape Town due to evidence (such as Batson's surveys) suggesting that the slums in the city centre were amongst the worst in South Africa, and to the fact that social activists were starting to publish the suffering of the poor. Figures like Bishop Sidney Lavis and Cissie Gool (elected to the Municipal council in 1938) spoke out for improved housing for the poor.

Q-town (later Kew Town) on the Cape Flats was heralded as one of the most successful residential developments built during the war years. It was billed as carefully planned with the aim of 'rehabilitating' the coloured (slum) population of the inner city areas. A staff of women were appointed to check that houses were being managed properly by their tenants.

What was evident was that the development of Cape Flats Housing schemes went with a steady trend towards racial segregation. English-speaking whites had mixed feelings towards this trend; they rejected the Nationalists plans for complete segregation on the grounds that this would deny the coloured community 'opportunities for advancement' and ensure that they remained poor (as outlined in the Wilcock's coloured commission).

However, they were persuadable that the method by which mixed areas would be prevented was appropriate to the recommendations of this commission, because it would come with guarantees of employment and education etc.

Once the Nationalists were in power (1948), slum clearance led to further townships on the Cape Flats (more..)

Mitchells Plain was designed in the mid seventies as a model 'dormitory suburb' for Coloured people, on the Cape Flats about 20 miles from the city centre. The 56 original dwellings were built on a standard box-like design and laid out in neat rows with wide roads between them. The government liked to show international visitors their housing efforts in Mitchell's Plain. By 1989, there were 33,000 dwellings in Mitchells Plain and development contintued rapidly in the 1990s.


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