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Natural Space and City Growth

MCA Planners

(Cover image removed temporarily due to file size)

1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................................... 3
2. DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS ......................................................................................................................... 4
2.1 PUBLIC OPEN SPACE (POS) ............................................................................................................................... 4
2.2 NATURAL SPACE ................................................................................................................................................ 4
2.3 NATURAL GREEN OPEN SPACE .......................................................................................................................... 6
2.5 ACCESSIBILITY................................................................................................................................................... 6
3. METROPOLITAN OPEN SPACE SYSTEM (MOSS) ........................................................................................ 6
4. FUNCTIONS OF NATURAL AND GREEN OPEN SPACE .............................................................................. 8
4.1 SOCIAL FUNCTIONS ............................................................................................................................................ 8
4.2 ECONOMIC FUNCTIONS....................................................................................................................................... 8
4.3 ECOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS ................................................................................................................................... 9
5. QUALITY AND ACCESSIBILITY – HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? .................................................................. 9
6. STRATEGIC DIRECTION .................................................................................................................................. 10
7. CONCLUSION ...................................................................................................................................................... 13

1. Introduction

What would Cape Town be without Table Mountain?

Table Mountain means different things, and plays various roles, depending on who you are and what is
important to you. It forms the visual backdrop of the City. A botanist might see it as the last refuge of an
endangered plant (the Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest and most diverse of all the world’s floral
kingdoms, meaning that rare and endangered species can be found across the City). A youth leader in
Mitchell’s Plain may see it as a place to take groups on weekend outings. For the tourism marketing agency
it is a fantastic icon around which various economic opportunities are promoted. A newly arrived rural
migrant living in Khayelitsha might see it a symbolic of what she has come to Cape Town for – work and a
better life (and thus also the hardship, challenges and possible ennui).

In any place, natural and green open spaces play all these roles and more – they are at once symbolic,
social/recreational, economic and a contributor to the services we get from ecosystems (such as storm water
detention, Co2 absorption and food production via urban agriculture).

However it is seen and used, natural and green open space forms a critical element of Cape Town’s character
and protection of unique habitats. How the natural and green open space is used and looked after also
reflects the spatial patterns and income distribution across the City. Cape Town was (and remains) a
spatially divided city. The high quality open spaces and natural space is often (although not exclusively)
associated with the former white and currently wealthy parts of the city. Every year the city spends millions
on maintaining and looking after these spaces, whilst in poorer parts of the city they often remain unkempt
and unused. For this reason environmental protection is often viewed as the preserve of the rich. This is the
case in some instances, but it is an unfortunate perception because investment in natural and green open
space is a fundamental part of maintaining the health of the city and maintaining species diversity.

Approaching the sustainable management of Cape Town’s natural space raises questions of equity and value
(and how it is valued) as much as questions of its quantity and accessibility.

In spite of this, there is no doubt that ecosystems (and the natural spaces and systems within which they
exist) are under threat – not just in cities, but wherever human activity, such as industrial agriculture, takes
place. As these natural spaces and systems are eroded, so to is the ability of our planet to renew and sustain

In exploring the role of natural space and city growth it is useful to look at the context of sustainable urban
development. As the basis for this study notes, “The availability of natural resources and the ability of
ecosystems to continue to absorb pollution and waste has become a major problem in cities across the globe.
Faced with high rates of urbanization, cities in developing economies are challenged with the additional
burden of balancing the increasing demand for natural resources with increasing costs of supplies, and in
many cases even shortfalls in supplies. Such challenges have become larger in scale as humans influence
ecosystems on global and local levels. Worldwide, cities face challenges in delivering energy, water,
sanitation and waste removal services, housing, transport systems, and particularly issues surrounding
coordinated responses.” The natural and green open space is one element of a sustainable city. As with any
of the other critical elements – its mismanagement has widespread implications.

The initial research for this study has found that, “in 2006-7 Cape Town spent R12 billion of its total annual
budget of R17 billion on energy, water, sanitation and waste services alone. This is a full 10% of the Gross
Geographic Product (GGP) of the metropolitan economy, even though it excludes the full environmental
costs arising from the ‘free’ ecosystem services these systems depend on (such as CO2 sequestration,
catchment areas regulating water supplies, landfills to absorb waste, air quality and negative effects on
health).” These excluded costs provided by the ecosystem are often located within the natural and green
open spaces of the City. The health and effective functioning of the city’s natural spaces and green systems
thus forms a critical component of a sustainable city. The ‘health’ of city from a sustainability perspective
can be determined as much by the pollution of its rivers, beaches and harbours as anything else.

Natural open space is a resource. Some of it needs protection, but all of it needs good management. In Cape
Town we have more than enough open space – but it is often under-utilized and inaccessible. Paradoxically,
we also do not have enough of the right natural space to ensure effective operation of key ecosystems
(specifically lowland fynbos). How much open space and how accessible it is depends on how you look at it
and what you want to use it for.

2. Definitions and concepts

The discussion around natural and green open space and how much of it is required and its level of
accessibility hinges around key concepts which require definition.

2.1 Public Open Space (POS)

Public Open Space (or POS for short) is publically owned land that is open to all citizens and may be used by
them in accordance with whatever rules or restrictions are applicable. It includes parks and playgrounds, as
well as larger natural systems such as river corridors and forestry areas provided they are publically owned
and may be used by all citizens (in terms of whatever restrictions may apply). It thus exists to:
a) enable the functioning of the natural systems around (and within which) the city has developed,
b) to accommodate community needs for various forms of physical recreation/play and
psychological development and health (play and games are recognised as a key form of learning
amongst children and accessible open space provides scope for creative play).

Its size and distribution is both a function of human need/demand (as in the case of parks) and urban
settlement planning and logic (such as flood-lines and high water marks). Some have cynically remarked
that POS is the space left over after planning. Whilst not true, this perception is based on the fact that many
pieces of our POS are derelict, neglected pieces of weed infested land that are sometimes a source of threat
to the communities surrounding them. On maps these pieces of land are coloured green. Hence POS is also
sometimes referred to as green open space. Whilst in reality this is often not the case, there is a strong and
positive connotation to the word ‘green’ from a sustainability perspective. Thus the term green open space is
used in this paper to refer to the role of POS in sustainable urban management.

Yet another term (used in the Red Book, CSIR 200) is soft open space which is predominately vegetated or
porous surface (vs. hard open space which is paved). It is similarly defined.

POS is a broad zoning category within which these different roles may be captured. It is thus also applicable
to the open spaces within urban settlements (within the urban edge).

Provision of POS is a requirement when any new settlement is planned. Set standards and criteria are used to
determine how many parks, playing fields and so-forth should be supplied per new household. The Red
Book (CSIR, 2000 – See Annexure 1) has clearly defined standards in this regard which are as good as any
when it comes to guidelines. However, many cities and provinces have applied their own standards to reflect
peculiarities of their context. As we shall discuss later, the problem of access is not a factor of proximity,
lack of guidelines or even a lack of appreciation of its importance and role.

2.2 Natural Space

The concept of natural space is not one that is commonly used in South Africa. It is becoming an
increasingly important concept in urbanised countries where there is a greater scarcity of natural spaces.

For the purposes of this discussion, natural space is defined as all places within the city that are managed and
run in order to maintain and preserve their natural state or the natural functioning of ecological systems.

Natural space also plays a critical absorptive function – assisting in the natural processing and recycling of
liquid and solid wastes, filtering atmospheric particulants and trapping CO2. Natural spaces can also play an
important productive role when it comes to urban agriculture (indeed the nutrients we put into the system as
waste could form an important input into the urban agriculture).

Natural space also plays a role in mitigating natural or extreme environmental hazards such as wetlands
regulating run-off from heavy storms.

Examples of large natural spaces include nature reserves (such as Table Mountain National Park/Cape
Peninsula), protection of critical habitats and wetlands (Edith Stephens Nature Reserve), river corridors
(Kuils River) and dune systems (False Bay Coastal Park and Macassar Dunes).

They may be part of the official, zoned, Public Open Space. Their role however, is essentially to enable
ecological processes to continue to occur sustainably and safely within environments significantly altered by
human action. They would incorporate sensitive environments, like wetlands, rivers, coastlines and remnant
patches of indigenous flora, which are necessary to maintain the diversity of indigenous flora and fauna
habitats. Natural Space thus often extends beyond POS to capture the full extent of a dynamic natural

Their size is thus not only a function of direct human need, but a function of the natural processes they are
expected to support. Sometimes its protection is simply for the fact that it represents something unique.

However, natural space does also play a critical psycho-social or spiritual role. Using it (and being in it)
enables the connection to be made between ourselves and the natural system upon which we depend.
Engaging with and observing the complexity of a natural system helps build the understanding that humans
are but one piece in the ecological chain of existence. This psycho-social or spiritual dimension is becoming
increasingly important as we seek to build awareness amongst urban dwellers of the fragility of this chain.
“I have never been to the wild before and seen nature so close and beautiful. I believe animals also need a
place to be safe and feel comfortable about their nature” - Khanya Moni, quoted in Environworks (City of
Cape Town b).

Ideally, natural spaces should be created and managed to ensure sustainability in terms of:
1. location (incorporating wetlands, rivers, coastlines and key areas of indigenous flora and fauna),
2. size (large enough to maintain the natural populations viably and with sufficient/healthy genetic
variety and /or large enough to absorb and manage waste the system is expected to absorb),
3. dimension (shaped so as to provide sufficient protection to ‘core’ areas – round and fat is generally
better that long and thin), and
4. connected (relationships to other pieces of natural space are important factors in ensuring the
effective and sustainable operation of the system, genetic interchange and migration between one
part and another).

The concepts associated with how this is determined has been explored in the theories relating to “Island
Biogeography” and has led to various debates about appropriate approaches to conservation in cities
(conservation biology)1. This is also an underlying principle in the City’s own Biodiversity Strategy (Primary
Biodiversity Conservation – City of Cape Town, 2003).

ICLEI’s Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) initiative recognises that whilst cities cover just 2% of the
earth, they consume 75% of its natural resources. Managing biodiversity in Cape Town (and especially
critical habitats such as lowland fynbos) is a key challenge. Urbanisation, invasive vegetation, climate
change, poor communication and lack of capacity are some of the challenges faced the City in achieving this
(City of Cape Town b).

Conservation biology, or conservation ecology, is the science of analyzing and protecting Earth's biological diversity. Conservation biology is an
interdisciplinary subject drawing on biological, physical and social sciences, economics, and the practice of natural-resource management. The rapid
decline of biological systems around the world means that conservation biology is often referred to as a "Discipline with a deadline". Conservation
ecology addresses population dynamics issues associated with the small population sizes of rare species (e.g., minimum viable populations). The term
"conservation biology" refers to the Conservation biology is the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of
biological diversity and the application of science to the conservation of genes, populations, species, and ecosystems.

2.3 Natural Green Open Space
The term Natural Green Open Space is used here to capture the combination of both natural space and POS.
The scaled application of this generally means that at the City and District level the emphasis is on systems
and thus natural space system, whilst at the neighbourhood and site level the focus is primarily on public
open space.

2.5 Accessibility
For the purposes of this paper a broad definition of accessibility is used. In general terms, accessibility refers
to the ease with which a place or activity is physically reached. In an urban context physical accessibility is
a function of:
o Distance
o Location (top of a mountain vs. near a major road)
o Travel mode by which it is/can be reached (foot, cycle, public transport, car, etc)
o The quality of the infrastructure (quality of road, public transport frequency)

Mobility (and thus accessibility) is also a function of income. Higher-income households generally have a
greater range and choice when it comes to mobility. Lower-income households will tend to place greater
reliance on use of foot and public transport. Walking distance to a facility and or public transport stop thus
becomes a critical factor in determining accessibility.

However, there are in fact many other factors which in reality determine whether an urban activity (such as
natural space or public open space) is accessible. It is these factors which pose the greatest challenge. They
are effectively management challenges. These include:
o Cost of access (this may include the cost of travel or the fees applicable to gain entry)
o Opportunity cost (linked to the cost of access is the opportunity cost of access. Going to
Kirstenbosch vs. making the payments on the lounge suite)
o Awareness, knowledge and perception (if people are not aware of a facility or opportunity, or have
no knowledge of its benefits or perceive themselves to be excluded then it effectively becomes
o Security and safety (perhaps one of the biggest challenges to natural and green open space access in
Cape Town is the security and safety issue. Table Mountain and the local play park are potentially
both easily accessible from a physical perspective, but remain unusable because of the threat of
mugging, rape or other physical violence. Living next to a park that is the domain a local gang
means it is inaccessible to the parent wishing to take the children out to play)
o Quality/Maintenance and Management (the quality of a space forms a critical component of its use.
If the local park is overgrown or barren, the swings and play equipment broken and the area littered
and used as a dump, then it is also effectively inaccessible. This is a function of management and
maintenance. Next to safety and security, this is the next largest issue facing natural and green open
space accessibility in Cape Town). Vandalism in poorer communities is often blamed for the state of
disrepair, but this need to be explored in more detail.

Ideally every citizen in the City of Cape Town should have equitable access to a range of open space
facilities, resources and opportunities. The lack of safety and poor management/maintenance of POS in
poorer communities, specifically, means is not generally accessible.

3. Metropolitan Open Space System (MOSS)

Pulling together both the Natural Space and the Green Open Space across the metropolitan area is the
Metropolitan Open Space System (MOSS). MOSS is defined in the Metropolitan Spatial Development
Framework (MSDF, 2000), as follows:

“A Metropolitan Open Space System (MOSS) is an inter-connected and managed network of open space,
which supports interactions between social, economic and ecological activities, sustaining and enhancing
both ecological processes and human settlements. MOSS comprises public and private spaces, human-made
or delineated spaces, undeveloped spaces, disturbed 'natural' spaces, and undisturbed or pristine natural

The MOSS strategy aims to identify the MOSS elements and their associated management strategies. It is
thus an attempt to draw together both the physical delineation of the system and to address the management
challenges posed by managing and maintaining this system. The figure below shows the MOSS system at a
general level.

The MOSS generally focuses on large scale natural systems such as riverine/wetlands environments and
mountain chains but incorporates a range of aspects such as scenic landscapes, protected natural areas,
sensitive environments, formal and informal recreation areas. The MOSS offers an integrated system of
elements linked into a network of green open spaces for conservation, recreation and farming, throughout the
metropolitan region.

The figure below is extracted from the 1996 MSDF and it conceptually draws together the various elements
that would be included in the MOSS.

4. Functions of natural and green open space
Natural and green open space provides a range of functions within the City, all of which are necessary for the
healthy and sustainable operation of the City.

4.1 Social functions

Open spaces provide for critical social functions – especially in the context of higher densities and where
there are large households on small properties. It provides space to socialise, relax, play and escape the close
confines of small homes and spaces.

The current state of most of our public open spaces (community parks and sport fields) is poor. This is a
reflection of lack of safety and poor management. The spaces are available, but not usable. This is the key

Quotes from Grade 11 learners involved in a GIS mapping exercise in Rondevlei Nature Reserve make the
point, “It is good to have nature in a city, and not just buildings and roads”, said David Baak. “I just
realised that the life of animals and other creatures are much more important in our daily lives, so we should
not destroy our environment. Rondevlei is valuable to me because it’s where you can forget about your
problems, sitting there watching the birds…” Bonga Mboyiya. Quotes from City of Cape Town b

4.2 Economic functions

A recent study undertaken by the City’s Environmental Management Department illustrates that open space
in the metropolitan area is highly valuable due to the ecological and social functions that it performs (Turpie
et al, 2002). Turpie et al valued the value of ecosystem services by estimating the costs to the City of having
to artificially provide the services which are given by the environment. The open spaces within the Cape
Metropolitan Area provides hundreds of millions of Rands worth of services every year to the City and yet
the maintenance budget for these “service areas” is general extremely low and often are thought of as a
luxury by administrations instead of viewing them as essential to ensure future services.

Further, well-managed open space can increase the value of adjacent properties (Van Zyl and Leiman, 2002)
leading to a healthier rates base for local administrations. The property values were found to have a 10%
discount rate or premium depending on the management of the adjacent open space. In neighbourhoods
integrated into well-managed open space and conservation areas the property values of adjacent houses were
on average 40% higher than other comparable properties.

The greatest asset and competitive advantage, to the City of Cape Town, is the unique environment. The city
has all the qualities of a great tourist destination and therefore tourism plays an important role in generating
income into the city. Eco-tourism as well adds economic value to recreational areas, with the Cape
Metropolitan Areas being a popular destination for both local and international tourists.

Green spaces show significant returns considering how much actually gets invested in it. With an added
increase in properly maintaining and managing the natural open spaces, land could be made more attractive
thereby effectively enhancing its neighbouring developments and at the same increasing property values.

4.3 Ecological functions

The biodiversity in Cape Town is of highest priority, it is ranked one of only three cities in the world as a
“hotspot”. The city of Cape Town’s biodiversity strategy defines biodiversity (biological diversity) as the
totality of the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and
ecosystems in which they occur. It is the ‘natural wealth’ of the earth, which supplies all our food and much
of our shelter and raw materials.

Ecological conservation areas include the mountain, coast, unique habitats and the rivers. These areas are
essential to the future survival of Cape Town’s rich but threatened biodiversity and have been defined in the
City’s biodiversity network. Core conservation areas (where only strictly controlled public access is
allowed), buffer areas (where limited, short-stay public access is allowed) and transition areas (where active
public access and a wide range of activities is allowed) all form part of this network.

In the context of Cape Town biodiversity refers to the variety of living organisms, which occur naturally in
the Cape Town area. The City’s biodiversity strategy notes that the value of biodiversity can be measured by
o Economic value of functioning ecosystems (e.g. clean water and clean air)
o Intrinsic value through its mere existence
o Contribution to tourism
o Consumptive use value e.g. harvesting
o Educational value
o Social value through recreation and open space
o Aesthetic value through beauty and scenic drives
o Spiritual value
o Bequest value – the value of retaining biodiversity for future generations
o Option value – the value of retaining biodiversity for future use

The remnants of the unique biodiversity of an area consist of valuable plant communities, wetlands and
dunes, which are critical to the ecological sustainability of the open space system, as well as having
economic potential.

The open space system is both a means to conserve indigenous flora and fauna, and an important step in
maintaining ecological balance within the city.

5. Quality and Accessibility – how much is enough?

The MOSS is contained within the urban edge. The urban edge is designed to prevent sprawl and to protect
abutting natural resources and generally identifies the maximum limit of urban development for the next 20
years. It is calculated that some 14 000ha of land is available within the edge to accommodate the projected
population growth of the City. In the City of Cape Town Sustainability report of 2006, it is stated that there
is approximately 160 sq meters of Green space (nature reserves, parks and public open space) per person in
Cape Town. There is also 300km of coastline. This means that Cape Town has more green space than most
other large cities in the world.

The issue then is not one of quantity or physical accessibility, it is about accessibility in terms of safety,
security and the proper management of the spaces that are available.

Research shows that even in developed countries such as the UK, access to and use of natural open space
was less an issue of physical proximity and more an issue of management. The example below is research
done in the District of Rother in the UK.

“Of respondents who use a natural/semi natural site as their primary open space, 41% walk less than five
minutes to reach it and a further 29% walk between five and ten minutes. The most significant problems
were vandalism/graffiti and dog fouling. The consultation showed that the majority of respondents are
content with the current quantity of natural/semi natural sites in the District.” (

Interestingly, there are 15ha of natural or semi-natural open space per 1000 people in Rother (or 150m2 per
person – equivalent to that available to residents of the Cape Metropolitan Area).

The study recommended that for new large scale developments (only) 2ha of natural or semi-natural open
space should be set aside per 1000 population. It was further recommended that this should be accessible
within 1.2km (15 minute walk).

Whilst it is possible to review local standards (such as those in the Red Book, CSIR 2000) and apply it back
to Cape Town, this would reveal little about the actual use, value and accessibility of the available natural
open space. Indeed, there is more than enough open space – public and natural - for all residents of Cape
Town. The issue is its management, maintenance and control.

For example, we have referred to the spatial distortions in the quality and accessibility of open space
inherited from Apartheid. Monwabisi Resort and the Wolfgat Nature Reserve are located in close proximity
to Khayelitsha and are accessible by foot and public transport. However, the area is unsafe and is hardly
ever used. Monwabisi is used on Boxing Day and New Years’ Day. On these days it is massively overused
and overcrowded, and people frequently drown. The issue is thus one of management and ensuring effective
safety so that people can use it and enjoy it the whole year round.

The same can be applied to the open space system in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. In both areas, green
belts run through the settlement. However, these are unsafe and in Khayelitsha not managed or maintained.

The bottom line is that the City has Natural and Green Open Space – but this is often poorly managed and/or
maintained and is often unsafe.

6. Strategic Direction
In looking at the way forward for the use, management, conservation and health of the Natural Green Open
Space in the City of Cape Town the approach has been broken up into various levels of action, namely:

1. Metropolitan or City-wide level

2. District level
3. Neighbourhood level
4. Erf/site development level

At each one of these levels different issues and systems come to the fore.

6.1 Metropolitan and City-wide

Contextual informants
Cape Town will need to accommodate an estimated population of 5million people by 2025, therefore
appropriate areas needs to be identified for development and if there is an unanticipated population growth
Cape Town needs to be able to manage it in a way that does not destroy the City. With growing energy costs
and an increasing shortage of water, steps must also be taken to localise food production and adopt water
efficient strategies (primarily through water demand management).

Institutionally, there is still too much fragmentation in the management of Natural Space. The result is that
difficult areas fall between the cracks and are left unmanaged. A good example of this is the open space
south of Khayelitsha. Nobody has taken responsibility for the management of this land, and it is being


1. The critical challenge is to ensure that the institutional mechanisms are in place to enable the
implementation of what are already good existing strategies and plans (some review ay be necessary
as some are five years old).
2. Areas with high biodiversity or agricultural value must be identified and their protection and
management enhanced
3. Areas exposed to natural or man-made hazards must be identified and incorporated into the MOSS.
4. The City’s Biodiversity strategy, which covers key areas for biodiversity management, must be
reviewed and the implementation mechanisms strengthened. In reviewing the biodiversity strategy
attention must be paid to the institutional mechanisms and capacity challenges faced in managing
Cape Town’s Natural Space. This function will only increase in importance as energy and water
constraints become more apparent.
5. Opportunities for well managed, productive and integrated urban agriculture (such as at Philippi
Agricultural Area), should be encouraged.
6. Subsistence urban agriculture is important, but highly problematic and resources should rather be
directed to where they have most benefit in terms of poor livelihoods.

6.2 District level

Contextual informants
The City has embarked on a process of preparing District level Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs)
and Environmental Management Frameworks (EMFs). From a Natural Space perspective, the City has also
identified opportunities for new urban green spaces; these include urban agricultural complexes, multi-
purpose city parks, active recreational parks and collective sport facilities. Considerable work has been
undertaken to consolidate coastal nature areas on the Cape Flats.

1. Create a structured green and conservation web for the protection of biodiversity and for access to
green and urban conservation areas
2. Identify where public planting can reinforce this web, which includes rivers, canals, the stormwater
and detention systems
3. Powerline and major road servitudes present opportunities to conserve and connect key lowland
fynbos areas – special attention should be paid to their management and control to this end
4. Identify where the need exists for major/regional sporting and recreational facilities of a higher
order. For the most part, these facilities exist, but in the poorer areas they suffer from neglect and
low maintenance. Programmes for the proper maintenance and operation of sports facilities
(especially) in poor areas should be put in place.

6.3 Neighbourhood level

It is at a neighbourhood level that open space for recreational, play, sporting and psychological needs comes
to the fore. Different age groups, genders and cultural groups have different needs. Many of these can be
met through single facilities if properly designed and (importantly) managed.

Over the past 5 years, the City of Cape Town’s Dignified Places Programme has also been investing in
creating open spaces in neglected parts of the city, but for a greater impact this programme needs to be
scaled up.


1. There is also the need to, at this level, to both increase community awareness of biodiversity issues
and to improve the safety and security of local neighbourhoods so as make them safe places for
children to grow, play and learn.
a. Joint initiatives with the Dept. of Education and Safety Forums should be considered (Parks
for the People type initiative).
b. Community involvement in local greening, especially with a fynbos (and thus water-wise)
approach should be encouraged. The BOSSIE’s project supported by the City is an example
of this. NGOs such Abalimi Bezekhaya are also key role-players that the City is already
working with on other programmes (e.g. the Aachen Partnership)
c. The general education and awareness programmes of the City are excellent and should be
extended – but links with community safety and education are nevertheless encouraged.
2. New neighbourhood development should be designed so as to ensure that open space, and especially
local parks, have good visual surveillance (create defensible spaces) and are safe from major traffic
hazards (e.g. fast roads).
3. Existing drainage patterns must identified, along with wetlands, stream and aquifers
4. Open spaces should form a network to accommodate natural water flows

6.4 Site development level

At the level of individual erven is the opportunity to introduce a whole host of initiatives that ultimately
impact positively on Natural Space, biodiversity and the open spaces of the city. The principle here is that
all new development and any re-development should be low impact. This implies a host of measures and
strategies that should be considered when approving buildings or site development plans.

1. Promote and encourage Low Impact Development (LID)2 so that run-off is reduced and maximum
water absorbtion takes place on or near-site. This includes initiatives such as porous paving and
creative design of open space to enable local absorbtion (see Annexure 2 for examples). LID
techniques can be used for a particular site, the aim is mimic the watershed’s natural hydrologic
functions or the water balance between runoff, infiltration, storage, groundwater recharge, and
evapotranspiration. With the LID approach, receiving waters may experience fewer negative
impacts in the volume, frequency, and quality of runoff, so as to maintain base flows and more
closely approximate predevelopment runoff conditions. Done well, LID can:
a. Help maintain drinking water supplies
b. Reduce maintenance costs of stormwater facilities design drainage channels and retention
areas into green open space)
c. Lower costs of streets, curbs, gutters and other infrastructure
d. Increase property and community appearance and aesthetics
e. Increase property resale values due to curb appeal of landscaping
f. Provide new tools for cost-effective urban retrofit
g. Reduce chance of contamination of sediments in bays (and ensure blue flag status is
h. Increase opportunities for public/private partnerships and public education
2. Encourage use of low-flo water technology so as to reduce water wastage and improve water quality
3. Encourage renewable energy usage and reduce energy demand – such as solar geysers and insulation
of hot-water pipes
4. Encourage water-wise and indigenous landscaping
5. Buildings must be sited so as to preserve sensitive areas
6. Buildings should follow appropriate ‘green building codes’ in terms of things like passive heating
and cooling

Low Impact Development is a land-use planning and engineering design approach aimed at maintaining and enhancing the pre-development
hydrologic regime of urban and developing watersheds. The Low Impact Development Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the
advancement of Low Impact Development technology.

7. Conclusion
There is sufficient natural and green open space for all residents of Cape Town. The issue is not the quantity
(and thus physical accessibility) of open space. Neither is the problem a lack of understanding or
appreciation of the role and importance of Natural Green Open Space amongst the City Departments. The
key challenge is bringing together the various role-players to ensure the plans and projects are properly
implemented and that these places are properly managed and maintained. Natural Space in the City of Cape
Town is about establishing effective institutional structures (management) and effective maintenance
(budgets and human capacity) regimes, coupled to greater community awareness, ownership and control of
their own public spaces. It is often unsafe for people to use these assets and resources. Accessibility is thus
fundamentally an urban management issue and not an urban development issue.

In managing and developing Natural Green Open Space,

1. the ecological systems and assets it represents must be acknowledged and catered for, and
2. the human development role it plays must also be addressed, especially at a neighbourhood


Burgess, Carmona and Kolstee (eds), 1997, The Challenges of Sustainable Cities, Neoliberalism and Urban
Strategies in Developing Countries, ZED Books

Cape Metropolitan Council, 1996, MSDF: The Metropolitan Spatial Development Framework, Cape
Metropolitan Council, 1996.

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Communities, Techniques to increase liveability, affordability and community viability, MAKERS
Architecture and Urban Design, 1992

Wackernagel, M. and Rees, W, 1962, Our Ecological Footprint, New Society Publishers


Annexure 1: Extract from the Guidelines for the Planning and Design of Networks of Soft Open Space
from The Red Book (CSIR, 2000)

Important considerations in the planning and design of networks of soft open space are: (a) location, (b)
quantity (i.e. how much space there should be relative to other land uses), (c) connection (i.e. how individual
spaces should connect with each other), and (d) vegetation (i.e. the nature of surfaces, and the balance
between “pristine” and “artificial” landscapes).

Table 5.4.2: Guidelines for the planning and design of networks of soft open space
Sustaining ecological processes Accommodating user needs
The location of networks should incorporate Empirical studies indicate that the needs of frequent space
remnant patches of representative indigenous users can be accommodated in most forms of space. The
flora, and sensitive natural areas like wetlands, question of how far users should have to walk or travel in
slopes, rivers and coastlines that are critical to order to gain access to soft open space amenities therefore
the continued operation of natural systems. relates more to access to a network of space, than access to
individual generic space forms. A distance of 500m is
recommended as the maximum a person should have to
walk to gain access to the network. When determining the
pedestrian catchment area of a public soft open space
network in accordance with a maximum 500m walking
distance, it is important to avoid simply measuring off the
relevant walking distance on a compass and drawing a
perfect circle around the space. Barriers like water courses,
railway lines and limited access freeways often inhibit
pedestrian movement, making a circle around the space an
unrealistic reflection of the potential pedestrian catchment
Sustaining ecological processes Accommodating user needs
Networks of pristine or natural open space Networks should be sufficiently large to accommodate the
should be sufficiently large, to maintain the seed amount and frequency of need, yet sufficiently small to
banks necessary to preserve the flora and the avoid reducing gross residential densities to levels that do
breeding stocks necessary to preserve fauna not provide the necessary thresholds of support. Quantity
species, and to enable the biophysical relates more to the total amount of space within a
environment to renew resources and absorb and settlement and the access that users have to this space than
recycle liquid and solid wastes. This is a to the size and dimensions of individual forms of space.
contextual issue, depending on the nature of the Appropriate quantities of space are a contextual issue, with
resources or wastes in question, and the diversity geographical location and residential density being
of habitats for indigenous flora and fauna. important considerations. Decisions relating to quantity
cannot therefore be made purely on the basis of formulas or
on cumulative totals resulting from the mechanistic
application of standards for individual space types.
International comparisons indicate that open space should
typically account for between 10% and 17% of land in a
development – depending on factors such as population
density and proximity to natural open space. An important
way of reducing the land required to accommodate user and
ecological soft open space needs, is the sharing of amenities
by different users, and the multifunctional use of the space.
South African society can no longer afford the luxury,
within an urbanising area, of having certain spaces set aside
for single open space use. Wherever possible, different but
compatible uses should be accommodated on the same open
space. In essence, a shift in concern from quantity to quality

is required.

Sustaining ecological processes Accommodating user needs
Networks of soft open space should be Networks of soft open space should be connected to create
sufficiently interconnected to enable the continuous recreational walking, jogging, and cycling
movement of pollinators and the dispersal of opportunities, not possible in spatially isolated spaces.
seed from habitat to habitat. These connections
are necessary at a range of scales. At the larger
scale connect natural features such as mountains,
coastlines and rivers. At the smaller scale they
connect remnant patches of indigenous habitats.
Sustaining ecological processes Accommodating user needs
The vegetation covering those portions of a The vegetation covering those portions of a network that
network of soft open space that primarily primarily accommodate human need essentially need to
accommodate ecological need should obviously accommodate areas of shade and wind protection, soft
be as pristine or natural as possible, and when durable surfaces for playing games, and hardened durable
these portions of the network have been pathways for frequent pedestrian, bicycle and wheelchair
significantly degraded, they need to be movements. When possible, local indigenous plant species
rehabilitated. The advantages of locally that have these characteristics should be used in
indigenous vegetation relate primarily to landscaping. In situations where indigenous plant species
maintenance costs, pollution avoidance, the are not suited to the requirements and functions of the open
enhancement of uniqueness in settlement space, exotic species that are suited to the climate of the
formation, and biodiversity. Indigenous region, and which do not present an invasive danger to
vegetation typically requires less irrigation and pristine environments, should be used. Whenever possible,
fertiliser than exotic species. established trees should be incorporated into landscape


Important considerations in the planning and design of generic forms of soft open space are:

• Location – where different forms of soft open space should be located within human settlements:

• Access – the maximum distance users should have to travel in order to use different forms of soft
open space:

• Size and dimensions – the area, width and length of different forms of soft open space;

• Use capacities and thresholds – the number and frequency of users a space can accommodate before
the space begins to degrade, and the number and frequency of users that are required for efficient

• Edges – the boundaries and definition of different forms of soft open space;

• Surfaces – the appropriate horizontal covering of different forms of soft open space; and

• Public furniture – the physical objects in different forms of soft open space.

Table 5.4.3: Guidelines for the planning and design of generic forms of soft open space
Parkways • Parkways can be located along water courses, adjacent to floodplains
determined by the 1:50 year floodline, in order to act as part of a major
stormwater management system.
• Parkways can be located as links between larger spaces, and can incorporate
buffer areas around incompatible or unsafe land uses.
Parks • Larger parks should be located in areas with no or limited access to natural
amenities (in the form of mountains or coastlines). They should be fairly
evenly distributed throughout a settlement, and where possible, connected
by parkways.
• Larger parks can be juxtaposed to, and incorporate, urban agriculture,
fuelwood planting, solid waste disposal and nature conservation sites, in
order to enhance multifunctionality and visual interest.
• Smaller parks can be located within easy walking distance (i.e.
approximately 300m) of workers situated within busy commercial and
industrial centres in order to create contrasting spaces of relief within
predominately residential areas, so as to create easily surveilled child-play
spaces, and within school clusters, which create safe, shared playtime
Sportsfields • Larger competitive sportsfields should be located within clusters of schools
and close to private sports clubs, in order to facilitate the sharing of
amenities between different user groups and to avoid under-utilisation.
Schools can have allocated times of use during the day, while sports clubs
can use the amenities mainly during the evening.
• Competitive sportsfields should be located close to public transport services,
in order to facilitate the access of visiting teams.
• Sportsfields can be located on low-lying land adjacent to water courses and
incorporated into parkways, in order to act as part of the major stormwater
management system in the event of severe storms.
Playspaces • Wherever possible, playspaces should be incorporated with other public
open spaces (for reasons of multifunctionality).
• Playspaces can be located within clusters of primary schools and close to
pre-school and day-care facilities, in order to facilitate the shared use of
these amenities as safe and stimulating play-time areas.
• Playspaces can be located within parks, relatively close to entrance points
(but away from busy perimeter roads) and traversing pathways, so that they
are areas of greatest public surveillance and safety)
Urban agriculture • Urban agriculture can be practised on land located next to sources of
irrigation water, in the form of rivers and stormwater retention ponds.
• In instances where lower-income farmers need to walk to the cultivated
lands on a daily basis, urban agriculture should be located close to
residential areas.
• Where appropriate, urban agriculture should be located close to markets.
• Urban agriculture is a useful way of productively utilising residual under-
utilised land such as servitudes.
Parks • As larger parks serve sub-metropolitan as well as local users, maximum
distances will sometimes be greater than maximum walking distances (i.e. ±
500m or 10min). The implication of this is that the parks will often need to
be accessed by bicycles or public transport.
• As smaller parks are likely to be used on a daily basis by children, elderly
people and workers, and are accessed by foot, they should be located within

300m to 700m of users. The maximum time spent walking to a smaller park
should therefore be approximately 10min.

Sportsfields • School sportsfields should be located within easy walking distance (i.e. ±
300m) of school buildings – with primary schools requiring closer locations
than secondary schools, and should be located within 500m to 1500m of
other user groups (e.g. sports clubs)
Playspaces • Playspaces should be located within easy walking distance (i.e. ±300m) of
primary school buildings and crèches, and should be located within 500m to
1500m of other users. As playspaces sometimes serve children from
surrounding areas, maximum distances will occasionally be greater than
maximum walking distances (i.e. ±500m or 10 min)
Pristine areas • It is not possible to generalise about the ideal size for pristine areas, or the
width of effective corridors, as these will vary between flora and fauna
communities. Where appropriate, land preserved as a pristine area should be
nodal, as opposed to linear, in order to minimise exposure to human activity.
• In the case of wetlands and drainage courses, setbacks, which protect
development from flood waters, should ensure that development is restricted
to at least above the 1:50 year floodline. The setback also makes provision
for a vegetated strip, which protects water courses from pollutants, prevents
bank erosion, secures habitat for birds and other wildlife, and provides
recreational opportunities through trails. The required width of such a strip
depends on soil and water- travel characteristics, slope, climate, vegetation
type, and the scale and density of proposed development (Figure 5.4.2)
Parkways • The length, and therefore size, of linear parkway depends on the particular
context. Widths should, for surveillance and safety reasons, not exceed
±300m, with a width of 25-50m making it easier for more vulnerable users
to identify and avoid potential dangers.
Parks • The area and dimensions of a park vary according to the functions the park
is intended to perform, and to proximity to the natural environment. Larger
parks should be able to accommodate a variety of collective events like
carnivals, fairs and concerts. Parks that are between 6ha and 10ha in size,
with widths of between 200m and 300m, and lengths of between 300m and
500m, are generally flexible enough to accommodate these events.
• The area and dimensions of smaller parks also vary according to the
functions they are intended to perform. Smaller parks should, however, be
small enough to maintain a sense of intimacy, and enable easy visibility and
recognition (i.e. ±25m maximum). Such parks should therefore be between
450 and 1000square meters in size, with widths of between 15m and 25m,
and lengths of between 30m and 40m.
Sportsfields • The area and dimensions of a sportsfield cluster vary according to the
quantity and range of sports to be accommodated, their respective field
dimensions, and the degree to which field markings can be overlaid to
reduce space requirements. The specific field dimensions of common
outdoor sports are illustrated in Figure 5.4.3. It should be noted that the
dimensions of larger field sports like cricket, rugby and soccer can vary
considerably, and that only competitive matches need the specified field
dimension and marking. Non-representative team games, social league
games and other informal sporting activities do not necessarily require the
specified field dimensions.
• Soccer: 65m x 105m (6825square meters)
• Rugby: 69m x 125m (8625square meters)
• Cricket oval: 128m x 128m (16384square meters)
• Hockey: 50m x 87m (4350square meters)

• Volley ball: 9m x 18m (162square meters)
• Basketball: 14m x 26m (364square meters)
• Netball: 15m x 30m (450square meters)

Playspaces • The area and dimensions of a playspace vary according to the nature of the
play equipment (e.g. whether or not small animals are kept within the
space), and whether or not the playspace is part of a larger soft open space.
Playspaces should however be small enough to enable easy supervision and
recognition (i.e. ±25m maximum). Playspaces should therefore be between
450sq.meters and 1000sq.meters in size, with widths of between 15m and
25m, and lengths of between 30m and 40m.
• It should be kept in mind that the size and surface of playspaces could have
an impact on their use, especially in areas where sufficient resources are not
available to keep them in a state conducive to play activities. The result
could be that smaller playspaces are used for rubbish dumping, parking, etc.
It might prove to be more suitable in some instances to develop these as hard
open spaces to allow for various games requiring a hard surface.
Pristine areas • It is important that the frequency and the volume of users do not reach a
point where they compromise the environment and interfere with the natural
functioning of the ecosystem – this varies according to context.
Sportsfields • The use threshold of sportsfields clusters depends on the size of the cluster,
the number of schools and sports clubs that share the amenity, the capacity
of the fields, the surface of the fields and the levels of use that are required
to maintain efficiency.
• Different surfaces have different capacities. When considering the sharing of
sportsfields, it is necessary to establish whether certain levels of sharing are
feasible from a surface capacity point of view. In Cape Town, for example, a
(kikuyu) grass playing field can typically accommodate only 6 matches or
practices per week, before the surface begins to degrade.
Playspaces • Playspaces primarily serve the open-space needs of children. The use
threshold of playgrounds depends on the demographic characteristics of the
local community, and whether or not schools and crèches make formal use
of these amenities.
Parks and parkways • Parks and parkways should be defined by perimeter roads and fronting
buildings, in order to improve surveillance and safety. Visual access or
visibility is important in order for people to feel free to enter a space.
• Parks and parkways with direct road access should be protected by traffic
barriers (e.g. trees, bollards or railing), in order to prevent cars from parking
in the space, and prevent children from running into busy streets. Trees, in
particular, provide a definite visible line of transition between built areas
and open spaces, and provide shade and windbreaks.
• The fencing of parks facilitates collective events where entrance fees are
charged (e.g. fairs, open-air theatre). It is important that only a few parks in
a settlement are fenced off, to minimise restrictions on public access, and
that entrance points relate to approaches from public transport stops and
major pedestrian desire lines.
Sportsfields • Sportsfields clusters should be defined by perimeter roads and fronting
buildings, in order to provide surveillance and safety. Depending on the
nature of the amenity sharing, fencing to limit public access to specific user
groups may be required. In these instances surrounding properties can back
onto the space directly without adversely affecting safety.
Playspaces • Free-standing playgrounds should be defined by fronting buildings, in order
to provide shelter from the wind and sun, and enable adults to survey the
space from surrounding houses.

• Free-standing, unfenced playgrounds with direct road access should be
protected by traffic barriers (e.g. tress, bollards or railing), in order to
prevent cars from parking in the space, and prevent small children from
running into busy streets.
Urban agriculture • In most instances, urban agriculture needs to be fenced in order to prevent
theft and vandalism, and protection from stray animals.
Pristine areas • Surfaces should be left in a natural (i.e. locally indigenous) state, and
riverbanks should be vegetated with riparian vegetation to decrease and slow
water runoff.
Parks and parkways • Surfaces should match the frequency with which the space is used. Heavily
utilised spaces should be paved or gravelled, while less utilised spaces can
have a soft surface.
• Surfaces should include hardened, tractive pathways of ±90cm with
gradients not exceeding 1:12, in order to facilitate the easy movement of
wheelchair users, pedestrians and cyclists. Pathways should run through and
across the space, in order to create continuous walks and limit any
fragmentation of urban areas as a result of the space, and should also lead to
more seclude viewing sites.
• Portions of larger parks (±50m x ±50m) should be left unplanted and open,
in order to accommodate informal ball games and other forms of play that
require free space (e.g. kite-flying)
• Retention and retarding storm water ponds should be incorporated as water
features, in order to improve the landscaping and recreational interest of the
space, and for the dual purpose of storm water attenuation. Paths crossing
watercourses, in the form of bridges or stepping-stones, should be made into
challenging child-play objects.
• Plant and tree landscaping should avoid the creation of hidden places of
refuge, in order to reduce opportunities to commit crimes in the space.
Sportsfields • Surfaces should be appropriate to the range of sports to be accommodated.
The use of an indigenous grass is preferable for ecological reasons. While
the cost of establishing indigenous grasses, like buffalo, is often
significantly higher, maintenance is cheaper. In some cases, an artificial
surface (e.g. astroturf) could be appropriate. Astroturf can be used 24hours a
day, but the capital cost is high. It does not, however, need regular
maintenance or reinvestment.
• There should be a differentiation between playing fields. In some instances
(e.g. climatic conditions), less important, non-competitive fields can be
surfaced with earth. The advantage of earth surfaces is that there is no limit
to use, and maintenance costs are reduced.
• Where possible and appropriate, field markings should be overlaid in
different colours, to enable the same space to be used for a number of
different sports.
• If parking space is provided within the sportsfield cluster, hard surface field
markings (e.g. basketball, netball) can be overlaid onto the space so that the
parking area can also be used as a sports facility when demand for parking is
Playspaces • Areas of intense play and heavy use, requiring high durability, should have a
hardened surface, while areas where children are likely to fall and hurt
themselves should have a soft surface.
• Surfaces should demarcate playspaces for children of different age groups.
Small soft spaces suit young children of pre-school age in their
predominately passive engagement activities, while larger soft spaces suit
the more robust contact games of older children.
Servitudes • To reduce maintenance costs, and increase habitats for indigenous flora and
fauna, servitudes should be surfaced with indigenous vegetation.

Parkways • Public furniture can include benches and waste bins at viewing sites.
Parks • Public furniture in larger parks can include benches and waste bins close to
entrances and play areas for less mobile elderly people and minding parents,
child play equipment away from busy perimeter roads, and ablution blocks
where required.
• Public furniture in smaller parks can include children’s play equipment,
public art or a stimulating water feature to add to the uniqueness and
character of the space, benches and tables (for lunch eaters, newspaper
readers, board games, etc), and game markings (e.g. hop-scotch).
Sportsfields • Public furniture can include benches and stands for spectators. In the case of
public fields shared with sports clubs, adults who work during the day can
only play sport at night, and therefore often need lighting as well.
• Depending on the size of the sportsfield cluster, and the range of user
groups, collective service points in the form of changing-rooms with toilets
and taps can be provided.
Playspaces • Public furniture can include interactive and challenging play objects (e.g.
wooden building blocks, stepping stones), play equipment (e.g. slides), and
benches overlooking play areas.
• Free-standing playgrounds with formalised use arrangements may require
water points for drinking and toilet facilities.
Urban agriculture • Appropriate public objects in spaces used for urban agriculture are likely to
relate to water irrigation systems and storage facilities for farming

Annexure 2: Low Impact Development

Annexure 3: Demonstration Projects
Here are a few projects that demonstrate development of the Natural Green Open Space system:

Cape Flats Park

The Cape Flats is devoid of quality recreation areas. A significant opportunity exists to provide a major
urban park in the vicinity of Manenberg and Hanover Park. The area is currently used for sand mining, but a
park could be created as part of the ongoing restoration of areas already mined. Apart from active and
passive recreation opportunity, the park can provide for productive uses (including urban agriculture and
nurseries), cultural activities and also attract high yielding uses to its edges (because of the potentially high
amenity value of the land).

A memorial park and cemetery

There is a shortage of dignified, accessible burial space in Cape Town. This project envisages creating a
“memorial park”, somewhere on the Cape Flats (possibly on the edge of the Philippi horticultural area.
Functionally the park serves as a metropolitan cemetery and garden of remembrance, elevated well above the
water table. It also creates a major place-making element which contributes significantly to an otherwise
featureless landscape. The foundation of the park could be constructed with builder’s rubble, covered with
soil and sand. The project could be implemented as a public works initiative over a prolonged period.

The Civic Centre and Station Precinct

The Cape Town Civic Centre, City Hall, Station and Artscape precinct represent important public institutions
and huge investment. These are however located in a very hostile and unwelcoming environment. The lack
of amenity in the central city for ordinary citizens and those dependent on public transport is a major
concern. The opportunity exists to build a new public square at the most accessible place for ordinary people
in the City, the Central Station. It could become the heart of the CBD and a place of 24-hour activity and
safety. The square could be used as an important lever to build confidence in the precinct and attract other
appropriate investments and facilities, including an inner-city crèche, medi-clinic, apartments for young
people and places of entertainment.