Chapter 25 - Planning Ahead
In common with most of South Africa's other towns and cities, Milnerton
had now decided that, as one of its basic sources of future prosperity
would be through industrialisation, increasing attention must henceforth
be devoted to this aspect. Already on December 12, 1962, the Council
expressed its "satisfaction with the siting of the Oil Refinery
in the area of land approved by the Administrator. This site is in
conformity with the general wishes of our ratepayers, in that it
is now removed from the original intended area, which we felt would
be a definite hazard to this town, insofar as the prevailing winds
are concerned. . . This Council is satisfied that all services for
the proper functioning of the Oil Refinery are available and can
be rendered by Milnerton. Furthermore, it is a recognised fact that
local authorities must depend on revenue from sources other than
the general body of Ratepayers, comprising house owners. The establishment
of the Refinery on the site allocated must boost our own resources
and provide a more balanced economy for the town."
In the wake of this decision came the prospect of other manufacturing enterprises, more particularly a fertiliser plant, and a survey was carried out by the Town Planning Officer as part of a Joint Scheme with Cape Town and neighbouring areas. Here the ruling was that the new works should be "in the proposed industrial zone to the north of the Oil Refinery. . .".
Supported by the advice of Dr. F. C. Halliday, air pollution expert of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Milnerton agreed to let the area known as Duikersvlei .be rezoned "from residential to industrial purposes, in order to permit the establishment of a Nitrogenous Fertiliser factory by Messrs. Fisons (Pty.) Ltd.".
Of fundamental importance was Dr. Halliday's verdict: "The factory can be designed and operated so that there will be no discharge of noxious gases at ground level, and the only gases which could cause problems are Oxide of Nitrogen, which will be discharged from the stack and will not cause pollution."
Since there were already prospects of further industrial newcomers, negotiations were put in hand with the Electricity Supply Commission for the bulk purchase of current. Likewise looking into the future was the action initiated by the C.S.I.R. on the "utilisation of municipal and industrial wastes in the Western Cape, the purpose being a system of coordinated and co-operative collection and the treatment of such material". Milnerton gave this a friendly reception and in due course joined in the realisation of the project.
While continuing to maintain its popularity as a residential area, Milnerton was ever more closely being drawn into the economic changes affecting South Africa as a whole. A striking example of this was the public announcement on August 11, 1966, on the initiative of the Milnerton Estates, of the layout of the new Industrial Township of Montague Gardens. Already several leading organisations had staked their claims, among them, Caltex, two other great oil companies, BP and Esso, and in another field, the FCU (Farmers' Co-operative Union). No less noteworthy was the fact that, notwithstanding the abandonment of the old Milnerton line and its traffic in racehorses and punters, the S.A.R. decided to resume operations through the provision of a railway for the convenience of factories, warehouses etc. In this, as in a number of other basic questions, Professor Julian Beinart, holder of the Chair of Town Planning at the University of Cape Town, was called in as adviser by the Municipality, and successfully prevented, in Milnerton, some of the errors of judgment committed in other places.
Unfortunately the matter of the Fishing Harbour still remained in limbo, despite a personal visit to Pretoria by the Mayor. "Now that the Government has for nearly five years frozen a large part of our Municipality," said the Mayor, Councillor F. G. Kotze, "there is as yet no solution. If the Government took the question seriously it should never require so much time. I regard this as most unjust. . ."
However his successor, Councillor H. G. Dowling, struck a more optimistic note in 1969: "I believe that this is the last time that this needs to be mentioned," he said. "Firstly it was to be a Fishing Harbour, then a Commercial Harbour. A Government Commission was appointed and, earlier in the year, they decided against it. We immediately made enquiries so as to get the areas de proclaimed for future development. We finally heard from the Department of Industries a few weeks ago that they are no longer interested in a Fishing Harbour at Rietv1ei . . . The suspense about a semi-industrial development in the midst of the Municipality's residential area is at an end."
Reviewing the industrial aspect, the new Mayor commented: "Apart from our petro-chemical area, which is well known, other industrial giants, like Fisons and Hoechst Fibres, north of Killarney and the Montague Gardens industrial area, to the south of Fisons, have been approved. This last is 700 acres in extent and will take up heavy but non-noxious industries. Planning is at an advanced stage and municipal services will be installed next year. Our own work yard and stores will also be erected here. "
When he explained the new Town Planning Scheme to the Council, Professor Beinart, in his capacity as its consultant began with the challenging 'question: "Do Councillors want to change the character of Milnerton or do they want its present character to remain?" After all Councillors had given their views, there was a clear conviction that the character of the town should not be changed drastically, even if the question of higher density, bigger bulk factors and taller buildings still had to be allowed for.
Higher standards of living produced another problem, to which Councillor Marais gave expression. Inadequate facilities within the town itself caused many of the public to do its shopping outside the Municipality, across the Koeberg Road. Hence, Councillor Marais argued, "attention should be given to rezoning certain areas for shopping purposes", an idea incorporated in the Beinart plans, which led to the establishment of some impressive new stores and retail complexes.
Out of all these town-planning discussions arose the further startling possibilities of erecting high rise buildings, in other words skyscrapers in what had hitherto been a rural environment. Sure enough a beginning was made soon after at the corner of Loxton Road and Ascot Road, which became not only a landmark for the entire neighbourhood, but a symbol of future trends in architecture, and it was soon destined to be followed by others. With the finalizing of these Town Planning Schemes, Milnerton had now emerged as not just a dormitory town to the Metropolitan Cape Town, but a town in its own right, independent and self supporting with its own viable industrial and commercial areas and its own economic base. On the site of the house where, as far back as the 18th century, the Langer\-mans had lived, there now arose - by a strangely significant change Milnerton's first high rise block of flats - Arnhem of 10 floors.
Some of the advances made were furnished when Councillor Dowling, as Mayor, talked of Bothasig, "an ideal township development from the municipal point of view". No fewer than 1 000 houses, he said, had been erected, with the prospect of at least 300 more being added yearly, the township's ultimate size envisaged as 3 200 houses, with a total population of around 15 000. Along with this would go a Civic Hall, costing approximately R100 000, for which tenders were already being called. Whereas older residents of Milnerton proper had in some cases waited 20 years for tarred roads, most of those at Bothasig were already provided with them. Particularly gratifying too was the financial stability of the entire Municipality, whose valuations in the last five years had risen by no less than 300 per cent and whose budget was yielding a substantial annual surplus.
Of interest to a wide section of the population was a matter taken in hand on September 29, 1965, when a meeting was held by the Town Council to consider "library facilities". As early as August 28, 1957, a letter had arrived from the Regional Librarian of the Cape Provincial Administration's Library Service, asking when the Council proposed to set up a branch of its own. He was informed that, for lack of finance and of suitable buildings, nothing could be done, but that it was hoped when, some time, a Civic Centre was established, suitable provision would be made. Now eight years later offers had once more been received from the Director of Provincial Library Services, to include the Municipality within the scope of its operations. This time there was no hesitation, and support was given by individuals such as Mr. Theo Marais, willing on their own account to contribute books. At a meeting, also attended by an architect, Brian C. Orme and by representatives of the Ratepayers' Association, lengthy discussion ensued as to the scale of the proposed building, some conservative Councillors even recommending the continuance of the existing system of relying for facilities on Cape Town itself.
Endless delays occurred and a variety of sites became subjects for argument. The increased vigour of the Council overcame the various obstructions by allocating to this purpose portion of the new Municipal Offices then under construction, though it was limited to 800 square feet on the ground floor and 1 000 square feet on the first floor. The latter was taken over by the newly-established Town Engineer's Department but on July 1, 1968, the Milnerton Public Library opened its doors to the public. Staffed by Municipal employees, it was at the outset restricted to the area immediately behind the Reception Desk. Yet books stocked amounted to 8 500 and the response, with 2 000 registered borrowers at the start, was so encouraging that the need was acknowledged for something more adequate as soon as possible. Not until June 17, 1970, was finality reached on the layout, and the real big day came on July 9, 1972, when His Honour the Administrator of the Cape, Mr. A. M. Vosloo, formally inaugurated the new Milnerton Library in the extended block, amid the enthusiasm of a substantial crowd. Both staff and book stocks had reached more impressive dimensions. Today corresponding figures are 25 000 books, with 9 978 readers.
Particularly welcome was the news in 1968 that a new Automatic Telephone Exchange would be installed both at Milnerton and at Bothasig but although the buildings were erected, four long years went by before the equipment was actually installed in the Milnerton exchange. Bothasig had to wait a further two years until 1974, while Table View only received its own Automatic Telephone Exchange in 1977.
One useful new institution was the Milnerton Life-Savers Club, which, besides supplying recreation for a number of energetic people, was doing much self-sacrificing work and successfully forestalling a number of fatalities on the Milnerton Beach.
For a long time a vigorous dispute raged on the subject of a separate Milnerton Fire Brigade, the Council protesting that the expense would be too heavy. The Government disagreed and the late General Retief, as Head of Civil Defence, officially and personally notified the Councillors that the authorities at Pretoria insisted on such a step. As an encouragement, however, the Government promised, once Milnerton had, at its own cost, erected a Fire Station building, it would receive, as a free gift, three fire engines.
Already in 1966 the old agreement with Goodwood about the loan of its Fire Brigade came to an end, but Milnerton tried to stave off the change as long as possible. Another three years went by before the Deputy Mayor, Councillor T. Marais, accompanied by the recently appointed Town Engineer, Mr. S. P. Wood (previously a Principal Engineer of the Cape Town City Council who was closely associated with the construction of the Wemmershoek Reservoir), visited Pretoria, "to discuss the question of the proposed Fire Brigade".
In this connection, incidentally, an important new factor was the progress made by Milnerton as an industrial area, with resultant increase in hazards.
R. B. Muir became the first Chief Fire Officer, appointed from July 1, 1970, and the three Fire Engines offered by the Government were now delivered to the Temporary Fire Station in the Municipal Works Yard. An immediate start was made with the installation of a radio communication system for the new Fire Department, established Traffic Department and Works Department. All these units can be integrated into a single system in the case of major disaster, civil disturbance etc., and as such form the backbone of the Municipal Civil Defence organisation.
When at length the Brigade came into existence it was a model establishment but the new Fire Station Complex, opened by the Minister of Defence, the Hon. Mr. P. W. Botha, on 30th August 1973 cost nearly R600 000 with an operational cost today of over R400 000 p.a.
Now that the Railway, albeit in a very different setting, was about to return to Milnerton, it was laid down that the new station, to serve the township of Montague Gardens, was to be known as Chempet - derived from the first syllables of the words "Chemical" and "Petrol". Ultimately this line would also serve the new Coloured industrial city of Atlantis while the new Access Line would link the Cape Town Harbour with Montague Gardens as well as with the Marshalling Yards at Bellville.
After various disputes and arguments on technical aspects, construction began in 1975, necessitating one road-over-rail bridge on Otto du Plessis Drive, besides another on Koeberg Road and at the northern end of the airfield runway at Ysterplaat. Yet another bridge - rail-over-road - is planned for the southern end of Montague Gardens across the National Road to the North.
The first reading in Parliament of the new Milnerton Railway Bill took place on May 25, 1972, making provision for an expenditure, over another eight kilometres, of no less than R9 000 000.
When in 1972 the land-owners applied for the incorporation into Milnerton of the farm Rooseboomhoogte, the authorities, finding that it lay outside the municipal area, rejected the request as premature.
November 1972 saw the appointment of J. S. de Villiers, previously of Bedford in the Eastern Province, as Town Clerk of Milnerton, a position he still holds. His wide and varied experience, covering over 30 years, in three different provinces, has proved of great value to the community.
Civic and other patriotism was stimulated by plans for a Central Sports Field Complex. As support increased among all ages and both sexes, a further concept took shape - the Milnerton Sports Foundation, offering facilities for virtually every manly (and womanly) game. The constitution specified that it was "not formed for the purpose of carrying on any business or enterprise" . . . but that it hoped to foster all forms of recreation, particularly through affiliated clubs. Anybody over the age of 18 could enrol in one of the three categories. Much time was taken up with the preliminaries, but in 1974 the Foundation was formally launched, and in 1975 the Central Sports Field Complex was inaugurated.
In 1973 the Milnerton Estates became interested in the scheme for laying out a Marina in the Rietvlei area, to which the Municipality gave its hearty approval.
Unfortunately a viability study showed that the idea was premature, but, independently of this, the configuration of the coast was changed by the action of the South African Railways Administration in setting one of its suction dredgers to work, as part of the new harbour, on land purchased from Milnerton Estates and Nico Pentz (Pty) Ltd.
After many delays the suction dredger started its huge task of removing 5 000 000 cubic metres of spoil from the bottom of Rietvlei in May 1973, this being accompanied by the clearing of a large area of bush, measuring one and a half kilometres by half a kilometre. Immediately an eloquent plea was put forward, and duly accepted, for preserving the lives of birds and other creatures. As so often happens, there were unforeseen difficulties, and on one occasion exceptionally low tides nullified the work of the dredger and its pumps.
Within another two years, in August 1976, the Milnerton Aquatic Club was founded, with the blessing of the Milnerton Sports Foundation, operating on the Rietv1ei Lagoon. An ambitious programme including construction of ablution and toilet facilities, a boatshed, a launching ramp and a clubhouse was completed during 1978.
Contrasting with this was the proposed establishment, in July 1975, of a Pistol Range at Table View, the organisers being cautioned to conform to the safety requirements as specified by the Department of Defence and by the South African Police. (Apropos of firearms, Milnerton had decided in October 1973 to include under that term airguns, air-rifles and airpistols.)
The l00th Anniversary of the Afrikaans language was celebrated in Milnerton with enthusiasm, the Dutch Reformed Church at Zonnekus holding a special commemoration service, attended by the Councillors in force, while the Municipality was presented with "a gilded Afrikaans Bible", to be used on official occasions.
When on December 17, 1975, Milnerton decided to join the Civil Defence Organisation, the convener of the Metropolitan Rescue Organisation was informed that the town fully supported the proposal to coordinate the efforts of all participating bodies in the entire Cape Peninsula Metropolitan area.
Many and varied were the indications of a new era into which Milnerton, in common with the rest of the country, was moving. Thus it participated in 1972 in preparing a plan for combating pollution in all its forms, and lent its fullest support to the Cape Province Municipal Association.
Statistical proof of Milnerton's progress was furnished in September 1974, when it was made known that, of its original 1 110 plots in the township, only 10 remained vacant, although in Bothasig 2 000 of the 3 400 still awaited the builders, while at Table View the corresponding figures were 4 134 vacant out of 4 894. The official opening of the Centre Point Complex, with its shops, offices and flats, representing an expenditure of over R2 000 000, represented a new dimension in the scale of local commerce.
With due appreciation of the aesthetic aspect, work started in 1973 on "beautifying the road verges of Table View beach", experiments being carried out in planting succulents in suitable places and in stabilising the moving sand.
Even more dramatic and of still greater historic significance was an instruction received by the Town Engineer in March 1974, in consequence of the decision by the Electricity Supply Commission to set up nearby South Africa's first Nuclear Power Station. He prepared a detailed memorandum upon its possible effects on the community.
Milnertonians will not forget the emergency that confronted them on 22nd August 1974, when the historic" 1 00- Year Flood" took place and when for a period of 24 hours the only outlet to the north not under water was the narrow bridge across the Diep River at Table View. Even in that Township houses in certain sections had to be evacuated, while gangs of hastily summoned workmen toiled to strengthen the defences.
In November 1977, Mr. H. Hulley, the Council's second Town Treasurer, suddenly passed away, his position being filled by Mr. R. Grace who joined the Council staff from Bellville. Another tragic loss occurred in September 1978 when Mr. Ken Louis, the Deputy Town Clerk, succumbed to Leukaemia.
The passing of the years was brought home to Milnertonians on June 14, 1975, when the very first official of the Council, L. J. Duckett, the Building Surveyor, reached the retiring age. Indeed the town could no longer be regarded as a newcomer but as part of the scheme of things. Branches of commercial banks were operating in the town, to say nothing of a "chapter" of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry; while traffic had now become so heavy that an educational campaign particularly addressed to youngsters, was launched by the South African Road Safety Council.
Coinciding with the introduction of containerisation in South African ports, one of the largest cargo depots in the country, ranking only after Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth, was erected in Montague Gardens Industrial Township, Milnerton, complete with bonded stores and full Customs facilities and put into use in 1977. The site covered seven hectares, with ample provision for expansion.
A second container depot in the Metro Industrial Township was designed to handle coastal traffic together with the maintenance and repair of the containers. This container depot has however recently extended its activities into international trading due primarily to the efforts of a leading shipping line (Unicorn) specializing in service between the Far East and South Africa. In all probability this depot will also have to provide its own Customs facilities.