(W)Escaping the Challenges of the City: a Critique of Cape Town’s Proposed Satellite Town
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Much of the current planning discourse has come to reject master planned ‘new cities’ as both unrealistic and undesirable. However, with growing urbanisation challenges in the Global South, master planned cities, suburbs and communities have come back on the agenda driven by both public and private interests. This paper explores the WesCape Development (WD), a proposed satellite suburb to be located north-west of Cape Town, South Africa. Situating the WD in a longer lineage of utopian and new city planning approaches, I argue that the proposal is deeply flawed. Rather than being the solution to the urban ills facing Cape Town, it is an ‘anti-urban’ strategy which supports suburbanisation and assumes a particular and problematic urban growth scenario. It relies on ‘environmentally deterministic’ assumptions and depoliticised and deinstitutionalised designs. Ultimately, it tries to escape, rather than confront, the operational, political and social challenges of the city leading to the devaluation of planning instruments and citizenship engagement. The WD highlights the importance and power of radical and utopian thinking as well as the necessity of grounding and situating these impulses in the specificities and complexities of the city.
KeywordsCape Town New towns African cities Utopian planning Participation WesCape South Africa Urban edge New cities
I would like to express gratitude to my colleagues, in particular Sue Parnell, Vanessa Watson, and Robert McGaffin, for essential insights during the drafting of this paper. However, all faults and criticisms are the responsibility of the author alone.
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