Residents in the Greendale area will no doubt have noticed the enormous increase in the number of cluster home complexes which have sprung up in the last few years. At present there is a complex being built adjacent to the new Pick n Pay at the Kamfinsa Shopping Centre as well two more along Greendale Ave near the Food Lovers’ Market and another just off Cunningham Road.
In the last few years we’ve seen Coro Breezes and The Palms at the top end of Coronation Avenue as well as a new complex on Kennedy Drive and Rossal Park and Greenside Villas on Rossal Avenue. There are already at least seven older complexes close to Kamfinsa, two along Greendale Avenue and several on both sides of The Red Fox Hotel.
As one of the older suburbs surrounding Harare, Greendale was laid out and developed in the 40s and 50s. Large farms and small holdings were broken up into smaller plots, mostly between one and two acres and generally with a single homestead on each plot. At that time the road network was adequate to deal with the amount of traffic in the area. Courtney Selous School was built to cater for the young children in the area, Greengrove School was built a little later, and Oriel, Churchill and Roosevelt schools catered for older children. Shopping centres were built and a fire station and a library were established next to the Municipal offices. At that time these facilities were more than adequate to cope with the fairly sparse population. Since that time very little further development has taken place, in fact a number of the facilities have become seriously neglected.
Now the City Council has mooted Plan 56 for Greendale which aims to promote businesses through the regeneration of shopping centres. As the Council appears to be cash strapped and unable to provide basic services the implementation and success of their plan remains to be seen. Most residents of Greendale would welcome any kind of development and growth in the suburb but is the proliferation of cluster homes and the ‘densification’ of the population the answer?
An increase in the number of residents in the area will put more strain on the already over stretched services. Instead of one household per property using water, electricity and generating household waste, cluster homes will now have eight or more households on the same property. Many residents of the townhouses in the Newlands area say that they have not had water in their upstairs bathrooms for years as the pressure of the council water supply is too low. They’ve been forced to set up expensive systems of tanks and pumps to be able to use their bathrooms.
A higher population density also means more traffic on roads which are already in a deplorable state, more children needing schooling and more people needing services like medical centres and banks. Of course most cluster home complexes will have to have boreholes, placing stress on the groundwater supply. Most of Greendale is not on the municipal sewer system so cluster homes will need several septic tanks and soakaways – all this extra effluent will leach into the underground water. There’ll be more household waste to be collected – or dumped on the roadside.
According to Harare architect Bruce Rowlands, “In theory, densification of a town is always preferable to the alternative; suburban sprawl. Denser housing makes much more efficient use of space, building materials, water, sewerage disposal, transport etc. It creates a healthy micro-economy that functions well.” He goes on to say that household security is better in small communities, like cluster homes, as neighbours can keep an eye out for each other and each other’s property. “The surrounding natural environment and its resources are actually better protected than if a city’s suburbs are allowed to spread out in an uncontrolled sprawl.” However this theory doesn’t apply if the adequate provision of basic services doesn’t grow to keep up with the growing population. While most of the complexes are quite upmarket, neglect and a lack of maintenance by landlords and tenants has resulted in some older complexes turning into high density slums.
Large properties and old houses are expensive to maintain and don’t address the issue of population growth but is densification really the answer?
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