Dear residents of Melville,

We are cognisant of the fact that many residents think the MRA committee is dragging its feet over the Johannesburg Development Agency’s Melville Precinct Plan proposal. In fact, we are doing our utmost to find common ground with the JDA and its consultants. A complex and complicated process from the start, the MRA committee supports positive change where Melville’s unique character and its stakeholders are prime beneficiaries as opposed to unrelated interest groups calling the shots.

In order to include residents in the process and to enlighten you as to why we are resisting some of the untested proposals, we have summarised the lengthy process.

 

THE PRECINCT PLAN IS INTRODUCED TO MELVILLE

  • In September 2016, a consortium of consultants under Demacon Research and Projects Pty Ltd won a tender from the JDA to prepare the “Melville UJ Precinct Plan”. The tender value was R1 362 660.

 

  • 2 May 2017 – The JDA and Denver Hendricks, a Melville resident and architect who chaired the public engagement of the Planning consortium, introduced themselves at a public meeting at 27 Boxes to announce the Melville Precinct Plan. Informed that there was no plan, everyone present was invited to participate in workshops to formulate a plan.

 

  • For the next few months, Melville residents attended workshops, though often-different residents picked up where others left off. There were heated exchanges, not least about densification of Melville, which Councillor Bridget Steer said was not on the cards, while the consultants presented an opposite view.

 

  • Down the line, residents and the consultants’ public participant groups negotiated a way forwards. Overcoming a sometimes-flawed process, the parties reached compromise and the MRA and its PP subcommittee felt they could endorse most of the outcomes discussed, without yet having seen them in a document.

 

  • After completion of the public process, the PP subcommittee observed that the Melville Precinct Plan had begun to unravel. Without explanation, Denver Hendricks no longer represented the consultants.

 

  • Communication from the JDA and its consultant body ceased until fliers announced a public meeting to present a “final draft”. It emerged that the engineering practice Gibb, another consultant team member, had called the meeting for 24 November 2017, ahead of Christmas holidays.

 

  • The “final draft” departed in many aspects from the proposals discussed in the earlier meetings where residents contributed to the outcomes.

 

  • At the public meeting, residents opposed Gibb’s style of presentation, which excluded interactive comment until the end and a small concession was made to allow input when it was most relevant. By meeting’s end, it was clear that most of the large crowd of residents was unhappy with Gibb’s “final draft”. Gibb and the JDA invited residents to submit their views and questions to a PP website set up by Gibb. The deadline given for comments was 15 December 2017, coinciding with Christmas holidays.

 

MELVILLE’S SPECIALIST TEAM

 

  • Following the public meeting, several Melville residents with experience in architecture, urban planning and design combined forces to submit a report highlighting their reservations about the “final draft”. Their views became the mainstay of the MRA’s official submission to the JDA/Gibb Melville Precinct Plan website.

 

  • In advance of the team’s submission, Advocate Derek Milne of the MRA PP subcommittee had become a familiar critic of the “final draft”. In his view, the entire consultation process required outright rejection of the Gibb report.

 

  • For perusal on their website, Gibb posted amended “final drafts” including a not-yet presented Urban Management Plan. At the same time, they called a meeting on 10 April 2018 with all those who had submitted comments on the website. It was a non-participatory meeting where they presented a Power Point response to all the submissions from the previous year; Gibb announced it was their final “interaction” with stakeholders. MRA and PP volunteers and specialists were still dissatisfied with the amendments.

 

THE DISCREPANCIES

  • The proposed housing density numbers may negatively impact on Melville. The location of some of the proposed higher densities is not justified: for instance, there is a proposal to nearly quadruple densities and to allow mixed uses along 4th Avenue between 7th Street and Main Road.

 

  • The Precinct Plan does not put any priority on new development along Empire Perth, meaning that low density, single uses are being allowed while the City’s aim is densification

 

  • There is little illustration of how transitions of scale of density from larger buildings to existing smaller homes would be managed. For example, there is a proposal that 3 erven could be consolidated for new developments.

 

  • There are no urban design principles, which deal with management of parking, traffic controls or pedestrian movement.

 

  • The proposed budget allocations in the implementation section of the PP are not aligned with the MRA’s priorities. A very substantial amount of budget has been proposed for turning the avenues into one-ways and for putting up numerous ‘gateway’ signs (which might be nice but serve little practical purpose), whereas an unusually small budget has been made available for upgrades to 7th St, Main Rd, and 4th Avenue.

 

  • There is no heritage study for the area that might be impacted by the PP.

 

  • The PP included areas outside the given boundaries, including the Melville Koppies entrances and Rustenburg Road.

 

  • The Urban Management Plan, which has significant implications for ratepayers, was never workshopped with the community.

 

  • The Auckland Park Residents Association has negotiated proposals for Melville, which are mentioned, but not shown in the PP.

 

 

THE WAY FORWARD

On 18 May, MRA PP committee member Derek Milne and three of the specialist volunteers, along with Councillor Bridget Steer met with three officials from the key departments involved in commissioning, managing and vetting time impact of the CoJ Precinct Plans.

The purpose of the meeting was to understand the processes through which any changes in rights that are implicitly supported in a Precinct Plan would be managed. The meeting gave some assurances around the modelling of impacts that would be requested by a specialist Urban Design unit prior to their recommendations to the city for rezoning or height changes. The PP committee is now considering whether these assurances will be sufficient for it to withdraw some of the concerns they have expressed around the Precinct Plan.

In addition, on request of the Johannesburg Development Agency and CoJ Urban Management, it will formalise the list of concerns raised in the meeting of 10 April regarding the final draft Precinct Plan. This draft of the Precinct Plan is currently being circulated internally within CoJ departments and these concerns will considered amongst the internal ones once all are received. The final iteration of the Precinct Plan is thus several months in the future.

The MRA committee and Precinct Plan subcommittee remain committed to finding solutions that best serve Melville, its residents, merchants and all who visit and work here. We believe that among our community is the expertise to interact meaningfully with well-intended City players for the betterment of the suburb. In the best interests of the Melville community, we appeal to the JDA to pay due heed to our reservations about the status of the Precinct Plan, which we like to think is at an impasse not a dead end, and that good sense will prevail.

We would welcome feedback from the Melville community.

 

For more information or feedback please contact the MRA PP Subcommittee via email – az.oc.ellivlemevolinull@pp-arm