Athlone centre in the air, but so is stink

The site of Cape Town’s Athlone power station can be turned into a vibrant cultural, commercial and residential area, but something will have to be done about the stink from a neighbouring sewage treatment plant.

This was the message from city officials on Monday at the release of a “pre-feasibility” study, aimed at determining whether development was possible on the 36-hectare site.

The power station was in the news recently when the two giant cooling towers that had for decades been part of Cape Town’s skyline, were imploded.

The station stopped producing electricity some seven years ago.

Councillor Bryan Watkins, chairman of the city council’s planning and environment committee, told a media briefing that the city wanted to see the “very impressive” massive red-brick turbine hall turned into an “African cultural centre”.

“It’s something we’ve had on the cards for some time,” he said.

The study identifies a “preferred scenario” with a mix of just under a quarter of the site earmarked for middle-income housing, 30 percent for commercial or business use, and space for retail outlets, light industry and public institutions.

This breakdown was however just a guideline, and as planning proceeded, other scenarios might emerge and the percentages change.

Sewage a major problem
“The close proximity of the Athlone [sewage] treatment works and the refuse transfer station, with its problems of air pollution, needs to be addressed,” he said.

The garbage transfer station is on the site, next to the power station. The sewage works is off the site, on the other side of the N2 highway.

Watkins said the study would go before his committee on Tuesday.

Approval would mean that the project could enter its next phase.

Geoff Duffell-Canham, of the city’s department of spatial planning, said the city already planned to upgrade and improve the transfer station.

“In terms of the development we’re proposing, that will become very necessary,” he said.

Though the sewage works was off the site, it had an impact on the project.

“The city again has intentions of improving that site and that facility to essentially make it a good neighbour to the development we’re proposing,” he said.

The city said in a media release that in public consultations that fed into the pre-feasibility study, “everyone consulted” raised concerns about the stink from the transfer station and the sewage works.

“The pre-feasibility study has shown that the enhancement and upgrading of these two facilities, as well as other services infrastructure on the site, is fundamental to the success of the re-development of the entire Athlone Power Station site,” the city said.

It said the results of the pre-feasibility study and the comments and concerns raised by the public would now be incorporated into more in-depth “viability testing” of the proposed form of development and a detailed business plan and development framework. — Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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