Investigating the implications of the transition from ‘Agrarian Village’ to ‘Edge Town’ : a case study of the upper highway area in Durban, South Africa.
Smith, Wendy Ann.
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The decentralisation of cities and metropolitan areas to the periphery, and the progressive transitioning of rural areas to urban areas, is a world-wide post-modern phenomenon. Characterised by commercial, retail and residential relocation to the ‘edge’ of the inner city - evolving towns and gated communities represent a new form of fortified space consumption. Inner city decay and peripheral pull factors have expedited the ‘rush of the resourced’ to the perceived safety and tranquillity of the urban periphery. The Upper Highway area located approximately 30kms West of Durban sits on the peripheral edge of the city. In the mid-1990s the area was predominantly agrarian in nature characterised by large tracts of farmland and pockets of ‘country suburbia’ sitting adjacent to traditional tribal land. The intention of this dissertation is to investigate the transition of the Upper Highway area from an ‘agrarian country landscape’ to that of ‘edge town’; particularly focusing on the impact of this transition on local resident’s interactions with this transformed environment; and how the changes are conceptualised by them. Findings confirm an explosion of growth and development in the Upper Highway transforming it from a small village to a fortified edge town. Burgeoning growth and development on one hand has more than met the needs of the middle to upper class in the Upper Highway, but inadequate and sluggish development on the other hand has perpetuated inequality and poverty in adjacent traditional communities. The poor-rich buffer instilled prior to apartheid still exists, and wealth and affluence sit juxtaposed with poverty and a dearth of resources. Residents in Embo display a strong social and community Identity, and disapproval of the out-group. Despite the fact that the Upper Highway area displays the characteristics of a fortified well-resourced ‘edge town’, the rural-urban interface continues to widen, segregation is perpetuated, there is a glaring lack of integration, the status quo is accepted and adaptation strategies instilled during apartheid continue to exist. Future strategies to remedy change need pay special attention to the voices of residents in adjacent traditional areas, stimulate integrated development and embark on a cohesive planning strategy between all key stakeholders.