Although the City of Cape Town has approved a new policy allowing the development of granny flats in the Athlone area last month, residents' associations in the area knew nothing of it until Friday.
As a result, they have called for public participation before the document is accepted by council.
According to the City of Cape Towns' Planning and Environment Portfolio, a new land usage management policy that encourages development of home industries, the building of granny flats and the subdivision of plots, was approved on 5 June.
It will encourage the building of granny flats and the subdivision of residential plots in Belgravia Road and Kromboom Road.
Councillor Brian Watkins, the committee chairperson, said that there was significant pressure by property owners in Belgravia Road for the conversion of residential properties for non-residential use along both roads.
Belgravia Road is a major transport route, carrying two-way traffic ranging from 500 to 1 300 vehicles per hour, the city said. The high volume of traffic indicates high business potential.
According to the city, the policy will make way for 220 properties in Belgravia Road which runs through Athlone, Gleemor, Belgravia Belthorne Estate and Penlyn EsEstate to apply to sub-divide their properties and/or operate a business from their homes.
Ward 78 councillor Mustafa Murudker, said there was a plea from businesses and the community. "Many people who left the Athlone area would like to return to the area, and people who would like to build granny flats to repatriate and accommodate their aged," he said.
Up until now, there was no policy to accomodate residents' needs to build granny flats or businesses.
"The absence of any integrated policies made it difficult for the City's Department of Planning and Building Development Management to access land use applications in the area," Watkins added.
In 2005 planning consultants were appointed to prepare two separate land use management policies that were compatible with the city's broader frameworks.
"After conducting two separate participation processes, the city has now produced a policy framework that will provide a balance between the concerns of the residents as well as the growing needs of small enterprises," said Watkins."
But according to Murudker, the policies are not yet a "fait accompli".
"Public participation is needed before the policies can be finalised. These proposals have been in the making for the past four years, but there was no progress on the policies until recently - so the dynamics may have changed," Murudker says.
Sedick Dawood, chairperson of the Athlone Crawford Civic Association, said that residents have been aware of the proposals to build more granny flats but that the civic association was unaware of the rezoning for business premises.
"I don't know what the fuss is about. I think many people have been building granny flats in their back yards for a long time, but maybe others thought it would be difficult to get permission to build.
"I think these policies are in the early stages, but there definitely needs to be more community involvement," Dawood said.
The proposals, he said, need to be publicised better. "The civic associations are the mouthpieces of the residents."
However, the city denies this, saying there was public participation before the approval.
The new land usage management policies will be discussed as part of the residents' next meeting on Monday 23 July at 18:30 in the Minor Hall at the Roman Catholic Church. Interested parties should call the association's secretary, Nazeema Thomas, on 083 372 2078 or the treasurer, Melvin Adams, on (021) 697 2236.