Thursday 18 July 2019
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Biomimicry to the rescue

An informal street has been paved with permeable paving

Superficially blocks S and T of the Langrug informal settlement may look much the same as the other blocks. Looking a little deeper though, one soon discovers that something exciting is happening here and the differences suddenly become obvious. Plastic litter that seems to be everywhere in the settlement is absent here. So are the open streams of foul wastewater. The path between the shacks has a curb to give it a level surface and channel storm water to the nearest storm water drain.  Perhaps most strikingly the informal road is paved with open grass pavers and there are large indigenous trees every few metres along the road.

The reason for these differences is a project called The Genius of SPACE.  This project is part of the Western Cape’s 110% Green Initiative and the Berg River Improvement Plan. It seeks to address two of the province’s strategic priorities: water quality in the Berg River system and the green economy. What the project is doing is establishing innovative biomimicry interventions that when applied, successfully adopted and implemented to the Berg River area, could have a desirable impact on the province’s environment and economic growth as well as improving health in all the people affected by the river.

The project has been through several phases involving community participation and co-planning, with phase 4 (construction) finally starting in January 2016.  The aim is to mimic nature in creating a living sewer, using the principle of treating water as it is transported to support the greening of Langrug with readily available nutrients and water.

Briefly the system works as follows: A series of greywater disposal points have been constructed and linked via underground pipes to miniature wetlands and tree gardens – hence the absence of open sewers. These specially designed wetlands start purifying the water as it moves down the slope from wetland to wetland and ultimately to the municipal sewer system. The system is maintained by the community it serves and they also ensure that everybody follows the rules needed to keep the system functioning healthily and correctly.

The project includes monitoring and research by postgraduate students funded by the Department of Science & Technology and the Water Research Commission. Every aspect is being documented with the aim of learning as much as possible. Lessons learned will determine the feasibility of implementing this within the whole community and possibly to other informal (and formal) settlements elsewhere.

Further phases will include solid waste collection points and encouraging entrepreneurship with regard to waste recycling and upcycling.  The use of ecomachines (biomimicry wastewater treatment systems) for treating stormwater at source is the next focus area of the project, which is planned for construction on a section of land adjacent to the Groendal Secondary School soccer field.

The team responsible for the project includes BiomimicrySA, Greenhouse Systems Development, Isidima Design & Development, Maluti GSM, WaterLove Projects, CORC, John Todd Ecological Design and the Freshwater Consulting Group.

Heritage inventory for the Franschhoek Valley

Proposed Heritage Areas in the Franschhoek Valley

Large parts of the Franschhoek Valley could be declared Grade I and II Heritage Areas.

In terms of the National Heritage Resources Act 1999 (NHRA), a heritage inventory for Stellenbosch Municipality is long overdue. The municipality has now commissioned Cape Winelands Professional Practices Association (CWPP) – a team of heritage experts led by Fabio Todeschini and Liana Jansen – to compile this. Heritage resources – which includes Heritage Areas – are graded as Grade I, II and III for their national, provincial or local significance and placed on a Heritage Register.

In terms of Heritage Western Cape (HWC) guidelines, Grade I Heritage Resources “are so exceptional because they are of outstanding significance to South Africa.”. Grade II “must have special qualities which make them significant within the context of a province or region.” Grade III applies to Heritage Resources with “sufficient intrinsic significance to be regarded as local heritage resources.”

A heritage area is managed by the municipality in accordance with “… specific development guidelines …. to ensure that the heritage significance of the Heritage Area is conserved.”

In November 2016 CWPP presented a Preliminary Draft Inventory of Large Scale Landscape Areas in the municipality (Phase 2a). It is available at It proposes that in the Franschhoek Valley the maroon coloured area (see plan) should be a Grade I Heritage Area and the orange coloured area should be Grade II.

As the official Conservation Body for the Franschhoek Valley the Franschhoek Trust & Ratepayers Association (the Trust) was asked to comment on this draft. It suggested that the black lined area was of equal heritage significance to the proposed Grade I Heritage Area and should also be considered for Grade I status. In doing so it emphasised the heritage significance of La Cotte Farm and the landscape in which it was set. The Trust also proposed that the Municipal Spatial Development Framework 2013 be amended because it provided for Franschhoek’s urban edge to be extended to include a significant part of the black lined area – 59 ha – to be designated as a “New Development Area” to promote “mixed use, mixed income development including social and gap housing” as this might be incompatible with its status as a Grade I or Grade II Heritage Area.

CWPP have submitted the Phase 2a Heritage Inventory to SAHRA and HWC for approval and will now draft Management Plans to be discussed with them and the municipality before the inclusion of the Heritage Areas in the Heritage Register becomes official. The municipality must then pass by-laws for their protection approved by SAHRA, HWC and Province within 6 months.

In acknowledging the Trust’s comments Todeschini said, “Our Phase 2a work focussed on the broad brush-stroke identification of significant heritage resources in the Wilderness and Rural Domains. Phase 2b, starting in the New Year, will span the Urban Domain” and will include Grade III Heritage Resources in Franschhoek. It must be completed by July 2017. CWPP want local participation at workshops “drawing our attention to specific sites and areas that have heritage significance”.

The Trust welcomes development that respects the heritage of Franschhoek and the Franschhoek Valley as an essential economic driver. The Heritage Inventory will be a vital tool to help protect Franschhoek and the Franschhoek Valley from further inappropriate development. If you would like to be involved in this or have anything to contribute, please contact me.

Barry Phillips | 083 441 8280 |

Second clean audit for Stellenbosch Municipality

Stellenbosch Municipality announced in early December 2016 that it had achieved another clean audit for its 2015/2016 financials.

A clean audit means that the financial statements are all in order with no issues on the predetermined objectives, no problems with non-compliance to key legislation or any significant deficiencies in the internal controls of the municipality.

Mayor Gesie van Deventer said: “There is always room for improvement, and I promise that my team and I will uphold this standard of clean and transparent government and improve wherever possible. I am committed to clean financial management, zero tolerance for corruption, and utilising the money of the tax payer first and foremost for improved service delivery in order to create a municipal environment that creates opportunities for all residents.”

The mayor also thanked the Chief Financial Officer, Marius Wüst, and the other officials who work to ensure that the municipality complies with the prescribed legislation at all times.

Tripadvisor’s Franschhoek winners for 2017

The Garden House does it again! For the second year running Tripadvisor ranked Annette Phillips’ Garden House as its Top B&B for 2017 in South Africa and Africa – and one of its Top 25 B&Bs in the World!

Annette said, “I’m absolutely amazed and delighted but when I look at some of the exotic places in Tripadvisor’s Top B&Bs in South Africa and the World I really don’t understand it. I guess that with just two guest rooms, a few cat hairs on the settees as part of the charm and as The Garden House is also our home it may be because I’m just an old fashioned B&B.”

Once again, Avondrood was one of Tripadvisor’s Top 25 B&Bs in South Africa along with Cube Guest House and Pure Guest House in Hout Bay, Cliff Lodge, 65onCliff and Crayfish Lodge Sea & County Guest House in Gansbaai, Augusta de Mist and Bloom estate in Swellendam, Old Village Lodge in McGregor, Dorpshuys in Hermanus and Sea Mount in Camps Bay.

In Tripadvisor’s Small Hotel Category, Akademie Street Guest Houses was again number one in Franschhoek and in the Top 25 both in South Africa and in the World while La Residence was one of South Africa’s Top 25 in the Luxury Category.

Haute Cabrière: New Vintages of Pioneering Wines

With the bright days of spring here, Haute Cabrière has recently released the 2016 vintage of its much-loved Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend and its elegant Unwooded Pinot Noir.

1693 Restaurant Not Stuffy At All!

I have to say that I’m not used to having chefs throw food at me – especially at media lunches – yet that is pretty much what happened to me recently!  Happily it wasn’t done in anger and was all part of the spectacle at what was a most memorable lunch at the 1693 pop-up restaurant in the historic 1693 cellar at Bellingham Estate.

GlenWood Grand Duc Noblesse

GlenWood is home to some of South Africa’s hidden wine gems. One of these is their maiden vintage Grand Duc Noblesse – a noble wine indeed.

New Head Chef at Lust Bistro & Bakery

Award-winning restaurant, LUST Bistro & Bakery, has announced the appointment of Johan van Schalkwyk as new Head Chef. Upholding a high cooking standard, the new chef’s aim is to focus on fresh and organic produce.

The Screening Room to Light Up Again

Leeu Collection’s Area General Manager, Matthew Smith, and Franschhoek High School’s Principal, Jan Cilliers, enjoy The Screening Room’s plush seats on the day Leeu Collection donated the room’ contents to an initiative to benefit Franschhoek High School.

Franschhoek film lovers who were saddened by the closure of The Screening Room will be glad to learn that a community initiative is underway that aims see its screen light up again. 

Pick n Pay Helps Budding Soccer Stars

On 8 September, a rather rainy day, Pick n Pay’s Stuart Downie and his son, Jake, paid a visit to the Franschhoek Valley Sports Centre.  Stuart had been approached by Score – the organisation running the centre – to assist in getting together soccer kit for the 9 to 11-year-old boys.

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