products & services
unattainable? Although many development initiatives are under way in Diepsloot, it seems not everyone has sustainability in mind. But what is the outlook for this sprawling Johannesburg township? Urban Green File asks. PAGE 16
UGF APRIL 2009
products &cservices ity visit
By Katherine Cox
Diepsloot was founded on
the northern periphery of Johannesburg. Its location is changing with many developments in the offing – in Diepsloot itself and surrounding areas – it may not be remote in the near future.
Projects proposed for the Diepsloot area:
rg bu es n n ha Jo
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Government precinct ‘Green’ taxi rank Diepsloot activity street District node Development by Johannesburg Property Company Tanganani (Safdev Tanganani) River Glen (Golden Creek Investments) Tanganani Ext 7 (Golden Creek Investments) Riversands Country Estate (Century Property Development)
UGF APRIL 2009
Most problematic in Diepsloot is the failed infrastructure, especially sanitation with collapsed sewers overflowing and raw sewage flooding roads and paths. An additional challenge
Photographs courtesy of 26’10 South Architects
is the backlog in housing provision.
s a marginalised area situated in a “transition zone” between Johannesburg and Tshwane, Diepsloot, until recently, fell outside the official urban boundary. However, with a population of more than 60 000, it is a denselysettled urban precinct that begs planning and management input from city authorities. A wide array of upgrade projects is on the cards. “When looking at research and planning, it is important to view Diepsloot within a context of sustainable human settlement – an overall framework from which the current upgrade will take place,” the City of Johannesburg’s Peter Ahmed tells Urban Green File. The city’s Department of Planning & Urban Management is applying a set of sustainability principles to the upgrade process; over and above complying with policy. The aim is to add value to the policy and plans.
Densely-populated precinct Statistics from Riaana du Plessis’s Activity Streets Urban Development Framework paint a realistic picture of Diepsloot’s development: the population in 2008 amounted to 61 880 (projected to 66 000 by 2010) and an unemployment rate of 42%. In 2001, Diepsloot had 16 293 dwelling units of which 60% were PAGE 18
UGF APRIL 2009
informal shacks, 34% formal houses and 6% backyard rooms. Now about 61% of “Diepsloters” have education up to Grade 8 and 10,6% have no education at all. In terms of public transport, the majority – 62% – use public transport, 23% walk, 8% have private cars and 7% use the bus service. Diepsloot already displays incredible density with people having started to build double-storey shacks. Densities in the informal sectors reach upwards of 120 units/ha. Diepsloot has a very transient and fluid population with people following the location of employment; often renting out their accommodation. It is evident Diepsloot is an extremely complex area, fragile in parts, characterised by dominant informality, a development that has grown organically over time and shaped to a large extent by the energy generated along its movement paths. Aspects of Diepsloot may be dysfunctional yet it works. This article does not go into the why and wherefore of Diepsloot’s raison d’être, and it does not explore or review the planning processes and extensive research that has gone into Diepsloot but rather looks at progress and perspectives on the upgrade to date; gathered from various stakeholders.
Overloaded infrastructure fails Over and above the visible poverty and socio-economic challenges, from a purely developmental point of view, the challenges in Diepsloot are complex and many. A lack of, and failing, infrastructure seems to be the most pressing. Sanitation is a problem with most of the sewers having collapsed or continually overflowing; allowing raw sewage to flood down the roads and paths. This situation is often exacerbated by a blocked and inadequate stormwater system. According to Paul Arnott-Job, senior development manager for the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), the city has to redo infrastructural maintenance work it did three years ago due to the overload on the system. The pressure on the environment is significant with inadequate waste management leading to an excessively-polluted stretch of river. “We’ve had to resurvey the entire river and flood line as dumping and litter have led to silting,” Arnott-Job informs Urban Green File. “This, in turn, has raised the level of the river and the land on either side. In addition, people have settled within the flood line and need to be relocated.” From the point of view of urban form, the environment is unstructured (although
Many frameworks In terms of the City of Johannesburg, Diepsloot falls within many frameworks and policy documents guiding development in the north of Johannesburg. Diepsloot forms part of the Upgrading of Marginalised Areas Programme, which has a “five-year objective to spatially integrate neglected and deteriorating urban environments” within Johannesburg, writes Riaana du Plessis in Activity Streets Urban Development Framework (2007). • The Integrated Development Plan and the Spatial Development Framework for Johannesburg (2008). • The Northern Areas Framework/Northern Farm Framework (2006), which is, in itself, made up of eight precinct frameworks. • Johannesburg Northern Works, Diepsloot Township Establishment Programme (2007). • A Development Programme for Diepsloot (2007). • A Central Sub-Region Precinct Plan (2008). • A Regional Urban Management Plan (2007). • The Diepsloot Development Framework (2020). • Frameworks also exist for each of the three projects discussed in detail in this article. On the basis of this list of plans and frameworks, one cannot say that the area is not in the planning. However funding and implementation is another matter.
this is not necessarily always a problem) and illegible; displaying potholes and the collapse of road surfaces, inadequate pedestrian walkways, a desperate lack of public open space and an inadequate public-transport system.
Sizable housing backlog Housing, in itself, is clearly a challenge in Diepsloot with an estimated backlog of some 24 000 units – of which, according to Jon Busser of Urban Dynamics, around 17 000 informal structures were surveyed in 2005 by the Gauteng Department of Housing. This presents its own challenges as a lot of the people within
this backlog are non-qualifiers because they are outside of the subsidy range or foreign nationals. Land ownership is another challenge when it comes to attracting private-sector investment. According to Zakele Mayasa of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), a land formalisation programme is pending. “We now have plans but the challenge is to fast-track implementation.” The project manager for the DBSA’s Sustainable Communities initiative in Diepsloot is Orapeleng Letholonyane. He is tasked with coordinating developments in Dieplsoot with the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable human settlement.
Low-cost area in high-growth region Originally located on the urban edge, far from any employment opportunities, amenity, infrastructure and public transport, it could be argued Diepsloot’s location has “changed” for the better. It would seem, although far from the CBD of Johannesburg, the area is well located in terms of growth corridors and future economic development. “In a sense, it is a low-cost area situated in an area experiencing the highest growth within Johannesburg,” says Alan Dinnie, project and development manager for Johannesburg Property Company (JPC). UGF APRIL 2009
26’10 South Architects
Space is at a premium in Diepsloot. Many formal and informal houses are being developed into doublestorey dwellings.
Provincial housing department an obstacle? All role players interviewed shared a similar opinion when asked about “housing”. They felt the Gauteng Department of Housing, specifically, is holding up the development and housing process in Diepsloot. This department, they maintain, does not have sufficient plans in place for the delivery of sustainable housing to Diepsloot and it does not have any plans in terms of how or where to relocate people needing to be moved from the floodplain. Granted, the Department of Housing does not own any land within the Diepsloot area but the problem has existed for many years and one would have thought a workable solution could have been found by now.
Connectivity is top of mind Previously, the Northern Farm area adjacent to Diepsloot fell beyond the urban boundary. However the City of Johannesburg has decided to extend this boundary; incorporating Diepsloot and the proposed mixed-income housing projects on the land east of William Nicol – an area known as Diepsloot East. Tshwane seems to have picked up on the positive energy of the northern growth corridor and is considering the area just north of Diepsloot for development. While this northern corridor is an opportunity, challenges exist around the east-west linkages to ensure Diepsloot is integrated into the city – from Midrand through to Lanseria. Given the future growth of the Lanseria node, this connection should possibly be given more attention; taking into account the importance of preserving the integrity of the nature reserve it traverses. It seems integration and connectivity have been debated intensely and researched thoroughly by the City of Johannesburg, and considered in all city plans and policy documents for Diepsloot. Existing and proposed new land use along William Nicol, such as the new retail mall and the district node, takes this into account. Land use promoting economic opportunities are located closest to the road to be serviced by the bus rapid transit system in future. Concern has been raised about the integration of Diepsloot with the proposed housing developments at Diepsloot East yet the private sector assures Urban Green File this is being taken into account in planning.
On the ground – almost! So what’s planned for or being done in Diepsloot? As a point of departure, it’s important to note all work is still in the really early phases; nothing has been implemented yet. In terms of
immediately “implementable” projects, one can distinguish between private-sector and government initiatives. Out of the overall Diepsloot Development Framework, four projects are being implemented first; each with its own precinct framework. These are the JPC’s Northern Farm development around the Northern Wastewater Treatment Works (NWWTW) and three projects spearheaded by the JDA: the government precinct to the north, the activity street (central) and the district node to the south. The Northern Farm development is being designed by ASM Architects while the JDA has appointed 26’10 South Architects to carry out design and implementation of its three projects. The JDA’s consulting team also includes Hlaganani Consulting Engineers (lead consultant), Envirolution, Selanya Consulting Engineers, Triviron Project Management and PC Quantity Surveyors.
JDA undertakes unprecedented work The JDA is doing unprecedented work on three fronts. Firstly, it is working on upgrading an existing informal settlement whereas it usually works within more formalised urban environments. Secondly, it is upgrading infrastructure outside of its project boundaries where it has been found the lack of, or malfunctioning, infrastructure would have had a negative impact on the sustainability of the projects. Thirdly, it is getting involved in housing to the extent of exploring innovative initiatives within the project boundaries through the appointed consultants. A basket of funding for the projects has been provided by the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, Treasury’s Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant, the DBSA, as well as the City of Johannesburg. UGF APRIL 2009
With the development of a new taxi rank, it will be possible to integrate market stalls into a formalised structure.
1. Government precinct (quick-win project, upgrade of taxi rank, stormwater infrastructure and pavements)
2. Activity street
“In a way, the government precinct is the nicest area in Diepsloot and, taking a future perspective of development in Diepsloot over the next, say, 20 years, it will be great to have a ‘civic heart’ in the neighbourhood,” Thorsten Deckler of 26’10 South tells Urban Green File.
3. District node
A ‘green’ taxi rank 2 rg bu es nn ha Jo
t en m op el ev D y nc ge A
The government precinct (1) involves: • Upgrading of the main road into Diepsloot West. • Upgrading of the public realm, including improvement of the interface with existing social facilities. This may include small upgrades to properties in terms of security, signage and landscaping. • Preparation of a concept layout for the public realm so as to allow for higherdensity housing development in future. • Provision of facilities for formal and informal retail-trade activities. The Johannesburg Development Agency’s implementation scope includes: • Upgrade and additions to taxi rank. • Linear market to accommodate informal traders to the immediate area around the taxi rank. • Stormwater management along Diepsloot (Main Road to William Nicol). • Sidewalk paving, street lighting, street furniture, kerb replacement and landscaping along roads.
UGF APRIL 2009
Here is where the work gets exciting: 26’10 South has possibly designed the first “green” taxi rank upgrade in South Africa and it will be constructed within the government precinct. The existing taxi rank is vibrant and exceptionally busy at peak times. Existing traders will be accommodated in a new linear market to front the taxi rank; addressing socio-economic development and encouraging entrepreneurial activities. The existing traders have all been mapped, documented and consulted by Envirolution to ensure buy-in to the completed spaces. In terms of the green taxi rank, the roof has been extended, cut and angled upwards; allowing maximum natural light into the entire space. This has also resulted in additional north-facing surfaces onto which solar panels will be fixed. The rank will have a battery pack at the rear to store the captured solar energy, which will, in turn, be used for lighting the rank and powering the water pump. Rainwater will be captured off the roofs of the rank and trading shelters, and stored in tanks from where it will be pumped (by means of stored solar power) up to the wash bay; creating a sustainable means of washing taxis. The design of the taxi rank is completely oriented to human scale and usability – taking its form from what already exists organically on the site – for example, an
open and welcoming entrance, as well as a meeting place behind the existing ablution facilities. This space is graded at different levels to allow people to use the space creatively; even providing for a “stage” if necessary. 26’10 South has proposed supporting pillars made out of gum poles (mirroring the building materials used on the site); bound with strips of rubber or leather to introduce a tactile dimension and ensure a hint of comfort when passengers need to lean against them. The taxi rank will also be self-sustaining; using income from advertising on billboards to fund its management and maintenance rather than taking rental from traders and taxi drivers in an already fragile economy.
Management structure in place The city’s Metropolitan Trading Company will manage the rank and trading stalls, which will have all the usual facilities as well as built-in “braai” places accommodating the many people using drum braziers on the sidewalk with the aim of freeing up space for pedestrians. The rank will include artwork by local artists on walls at the entrance. The remainder of the precinct is still undergoing planning but, mostly, the upgrading will focus on the installation of sidewalks and streetscaping. In addition, 26’10 South is looking at densifying the housing by fronting units directly onto the main road to create “live-work” units – a flexible ground floor (possibly retail) with living space above; all can be rented out and, therefore, increase the possibility of the units being bonded. “We will propose a suitable housing type with the hope that it will be taken up by the housing department,” comments Deckler.
26’10 South Architects
Civic heart identified GOVERNMENT PRECINCT
Images courtesy of 26’10 South Architects
Diepsloot’s ‘green’ taxi rank – part of the proposed government precinct – will boast solar-energy technology and rainwater capturing off the roofs
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VITAL LINK PLANNED —activity street A linear mixed-use commercial street between Diepsloot extensions 1 and 3, and the informal settlement of Tanganani will be turned into an activity street. This street will link the formal townships on the north-western side of the watercourse with the informal settlement to the southeast. It is an incredibly interesting and busy street with retail and service activities, as well as dense residential use scattered along its entire length. The implementation scope includes: • accommodating the pedestrianintensive uses; • provision of informal trading facilities; • roads upgrade;
• stormwater-management system upgrade; • integration with existing services • infrastructure to explore upgrade opportunities; • street lighting; and • public open-space upgrade. Here 26’10 South has mapped the entire activity street and knows exactly what the urban form looks like as well as what activities and business typologies are taking place. Apart from the infrastructural and streetscape work, the upgrade will be mostly in-situ; preserving the character of the street and ensuring feet remain on the street yet providing much-needed ameni-
ties and services. Again a suitable housing typology is being developed so as to maximise the potential of a living and trading street in the context of informal settlements. “The proposed incorporation of housing development into this street will, hopefully, encourage the national or provincial Department of Housing to come on board. In case of the Activity Street, design by 26’10 South has been organic, involving extensive local research and public participation and “replicating”, so to speak, the ad-hoc nature of the development. This has allowed the designers to respond to very specific local conditions and needs.
Diepsloot’s main ‘activity street’ will see upgrading of its
Photographs by 26’10 South Architects
infrastructure and streetscaping.
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Investment opportunities – DISTRICT NODE By facilitating development, the City of Johannesburg hopes it will attract opportunities for economic development. This project has not been identified for implementation yet but, to date, the JDA has employed 26’10 South to develop an urban design framework for the precinct, having identified the following opportunities: • high-density residential; • potential for retail development; • public-transport facilities; • informal trade and African markets; and • commercial use.
Will it be possible to attract investment to Diepsloot? The Johannesburg Development Agency hopes to achieve this by developing the district node
Mixed use, many developers – NORTHERN FARM A mixed-use development is planned on the Northern Farm – city-owned land situated around the NWWTW. The intention is to develop the land in “super blocks” – all with mixed use and all fully integrated. The JPC and its consultant, Urban Sky-Walkers, brought urban specialist, Greg Clarke, out from the UK to give advice on the development approach. “Focus on good schools and facilities, and on a public environment that will bring about maximum interaction and move away from monolithic implementation,” he suggested. The JPC seems to have followed this as the urban design framework (developed by ASM Architects) stipulates a mix of land uses including commercial, retail, light industrial and mini factories, as well as
mixed-income residential. In this regard, densities varying between 60 duplex units/ha and 120 duplex units/ha is recommended. This should comprise 50% subsidised housing, 25% RDP and 25% social housing. In the framework, public facilities, including open spaces and nature areas, are indicated. Within this project, the JPC is moving away from the traditional approach where a single developer implements a framework. The approach in this case is rather to engage many smaller developers as this should ensure the integrity of the urban fabric, the JPD argues. Individual “blocks” will be released with 4 000 units per block and this should ensure about 500 developers are involved. The biggest challenge, so
far, has been the buffer zone required by Johannesburg Water. This would leave a lot of land around the treatment works vacant. The team has carried out extensive air-quality sampling, taken into account health issues as well as nuisance issues, looked at mitigating the problem and found the zone can be reduced once mitigation measures have been put in place in the near future. It is interesting to note the JPC was, originally, looking at developing this land along One Planet Living principles. However the JPC came under severe pressure from the provincial government to deliver RDP housing so it was forced to abandon ideas of sustainable human settlements and development. UGF APRIL 2009
The private sector has adopted a coordinated approach, having decided to work together. As a result, it has been relatively easy to reach agreement on processes and principles with only a few players able to take action and move forward on development quickly. Proposed private-sector residential developments, as well as other uses identified in the Northern Areas Framework, will allow increased density in Diepsloot East and support the nodal development on the western side, as well as create new economic development opportunities. Private-sector developments include: • Tanganani (planned originally with 7 000 units to be developed) owned by Safdev Tanganani - in which Nedbank has a substantial stake to further its commitment to the delivery of affordable and sustainable housing. The development is, therefore, on hold due to negotiations with the Gauteng Department of Housing as this department wishes to purchase the land. • Proposed residential development at Riversands (2 947 mixed-income and Financial Services Charter units) by Century Property Development. • River Glen, north of Dainfern (10 350 units – mostly middle- to upper-income development by Golden Creek Investments. • Tanganani Ext 7 (7 851 units) to be developed by Golden Creek Investments.
26’10 South Architects
Much private-sector INVOLVEMENT
Despite the many criticisms and Diepsloot’s informality, many positive developments are already taking place. Could the shack land be turned into a thriving precinct within the city of Johannesburg?
Investment zone needed The private developers have suggested Diepsloot and Diepsloot East should be declared an “investment zone”, similar to that of a recent initiative in Sunninghill related to the construction of provincial route K60. If it goes ahead, a special levy would facilitate the development of distributor roads, such as William Nicol Drive and the K56, as well as the upgrading of bulk services. “Developers and the public sector are, together, trying to come up with a mechanism for such funding,” claims Busser. “The private sector and the city are working together in partnership and are on the right track in terms of future initiatives.” The private sector wants to participate and contribute to the development and upgrading of Diepsloot as it realises its contribution will benefit the area as a whole and, ultimately, developments there. It is keen to stabilise the housing market due to concern about land invasions. Examples of partnerships include support for the relocation of Zevenfontein to Cosmo City by Golden Creek Investments, and upgrading and maintenance of Porcupine Park. Century Property Developments will accommodate an evicted informal-settlement community in its Riversands project. PAGE 26
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INFORMALITY BECOMING SUSTAINABLE Despite the criticisms (opposite page), a
• A green taxi rank.
lot of positive work is planned for
• The DBSA is partnering with Unilever
Diepsloot by the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Development Agency. But what is sustainable about
and Enviroserv on the installation of a waste buy-back centre for Diepsloot. • DBSA is lending money to City Parks to
the upgrade? Firstly, Diepsloot, in itself, is
establish a new park in the over-
sustainable in many ways through
crowded dense urban fabric. On this
maximum use of space, creative use of
note, the one park that already exists
materials for shelter, settlement at
in Diepsloot has been upgraded by
density and maximum use of available
City Parks and is incredibly well-used.
public transport. Complementing this,
It has a large Township TV and is really
upgrade projects are embracing
well-maintained – good job again
sustainability through: • Installation of infrastructure for a start. • Installation of rainwater-collection tanks below ground with the water pumped to an elevated reservoir. • A programme to clean up and maintain the river. • A policy of densification along main paths of movement to stop urban sprawl. • The bus rapid-transit system will
City Parks! • In-situ upgrades of some of the residential units; preserving the organic urban form and respecting people’s ability to house themselves. • Connectivity into the broader city’s fabric. • The development will create some form of economic development and job creation in the future. A lot of work lies ahead but,
eventually pass Diepsloot, along
undoubtedly, most of it will improve the
William Nicol Drive, and provide much-
quality of the lives of Diepsloot
needed, quality public transport.
Constructive criticism 26’10 South Architects
Diepsloot’s situation is overwhelming in scale and any intervention that improves the quality of the urban environment needs to be given recognition. However Urban Green File has identified areas of concern in the development approach.
Location, location, location The largest criticism and concern is that Diepsloot shouldn’t really have been on the urban periphery in the first place but it is and it is home to thousands of people.
Failure of housing department to plan Most of the criticism, though, has to be levelled at the provincial housing department for not taking action sooner to address desperate housing issues in Diepsloot and for not having a plan for any future housing. For example, it seems there isn’t a plan detailing where to move those who need to be moved. All the role players Urban Green File spoke to share a similar opinion on the Gauteng Department of Housing. They feel the department is holding up the development and housing process in Diepsloot without sufficient plans for delivery of sustainable housing. It is critically important that the department has an action plan for people who need to be relocated away from the flood plain. One has to acknowledge the housing department does not own any land within the Diepsloot area but the problem has been there for many years and one would have thought a workable solution would have been found by now! However the department’s recent initiative to acquire, plan and design the Safdev Tanganani land and to make use of Safdev Tanganani’s development capacity to deliver services and housing on this land seems to be a step, albeit rather late, in the right direction.
Attempts at sustainable development sabotaged Given the focus of this publication, most criticism needs to be directed at the provincial government for sabotaging genuine attempts at developing sustainable human settlements on two fronts: regarding the public sector (JPC’s One Planet Living possibility was missed) and the private sector. In the case of the latter, Safdev Tanganani was ready to implement a sustainable mixeduse development in an extension of Tanganani. Safdev Tanganani went to great lengths in preparing plans for a development with the intention of finding the highest value and best use for a piece of land well-located along a future activity corridor of the city. The development would incorporate residential and commercial use, retail, public-sector facilities, and public open space. It was designed with sustainability in mind and to protect the endangered bullfrogs in the area – incidentally, considered a local delicacy at R10/bullfrog! In terms of green development, all units were planned to be energy-efficient. A cogeneration combination of alternative-energy supply and demand to each household was proposed – consistent with the municipality’s initiative to undertake a feasibility study around private-public partnerships on alternative waste treatment and energy supply. This would leave only the plugs reliant on the grid while maximising the use of solar energy, natural light, gas cookers and a waste incinerator. The latter would reduce Pikitup’s carbon footprint by making it unnecessary for waste trucks to drive to landfills in the south of Johannesburg. At the same time, it would generate energy, which could be harvested to power street lighting in the development. Extensive research went into the sustainability of the development; even down to the level of utilising materials sourced from suppliers boasting energy-efficient production plants, such as Corobrik. However Gauteng’s Department of Housing is purchasing the land and will be replanning the development in its entirety in order to attain a high proportion of RDP housing. The department intends to increase densities without compromising sustainable development and
urban form. Concern, however, has been raised about how long land invasion at Tanganani can be prevented if further protracted delays are experienced.
Inappropriate land use allowed
Quick, political wins chased
A South African Police Services station is being constructed on government-owned land directly adjacent to William Nicol; at the entrance to Diepsloot. Surely this is not the best use of this land? “The land could be better used to generate economic development opportunities,” Deckler argues. Perhaps a police station could have been built into a mixed-use, economicallysound development?
The pressure on government to provide solutions and upgrading in Diepsloot is immense with the result that all interviewees noted intense time frames due to political pressure to deliver visibly quick wins. I participated in the Runners’ World Dirt Festival (trail running) on Johannesburg’s Northern Farm recently – a splendid piece of nature that is welllocated as a recreation area for city dwellers. I was alarmed to read a portion of the Northern Farm would be developed by the JPC after I had been exposed to the splendour of this open space. However it seems, judging by the plans in front of me, the JPC intends to develop the southern portion adjacent to the NWWTW and not the larger piece against the N14 highway. The two sections are separated by the NWWTW. Nevertheless I do hope enough effort will be made by the city council to develop the main part of Northern Farm into a fullyfledged nature and recreation area for the city – Ed. I UGF APRIL 2009
Published on Aug 27, 2010
Urban Green File April 2009 First printed on in the April 2009 edition of Urban Green File - an information product of Brooke Pattrick Publi...