Alliance between city and developers undermines rights

CAPE TIMES MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2013

Alliance between city and developers undermines rights

A NUMBER of events lead me to a firm conclusion that environmental planning and developmental analysis in this city is under unprecedented attack through collusion between political and commercial interests.

The first event is the out-of-the-blue initiative by a consortium of developers to initiate a massive exurb on the northern periphery of Cape Town.

The Wescape initiative has been roundly condemned by all well informed independent planning academics and experts. It is doubly ironic that the consortium made this proposal on the virtual eve of Cape Town becoming the Design Capital of the World in 2014 -nothing could be as far removed from good design as this pretentious pustule of poor planning.

The second is the increasing cosiness between the DA-led city and province and the Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF).

The proposed “red carpet” to smooth planning proposals, while ostensibly sensible, is simultaneously a massive threat to proper integrated planning, as evinced above. The stated goal of the WCPDF is to become “a body that represents development that is recognised by authorities and which will ultimately become a statutory recognised body”. Its tentacles already appear to control too many administrative levers of power.

To even consider having a forum, guided, run and controlled by property developers as a statutory, recognised body should send chills down our collective backs. This is centralised planning epitomised. The reality behind party political funding should ring additional alarm bells.

The third event is the unilateral concentration of planning administration in the city in one central office, removing planning decision-making from the various sub-councils. This and the gutting of the spatial planning, environment and land-use management committee by the mayoral executive committee are even more sinister from a democratic perspective.

The fourth and final warning bell is the tabling of a Proposed Amendments to Systems of Delegations for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning before the city council in order to further facilitate planning centralisation in the city

In this proposal, one individual, the executive director: economic, environmental and spatial planning will effectively hold centralised control over all metropolitan planning authority

What appears to be under way is an unprecedented takeover of the planning and development of our city by developers and building companies which hold massive power through their non-transparent funding of political parties. What is emerging is the potential for collusion and corruption on an almost unimaginable scale.

All of the above is profoundly undemocratic and is counter to our fundamental constitutional rights. Section-152 of the constitution states: “The objects of local government are to provide democratic and accountable government for local communities.”

What is occurring, let alone what is proposed, is the very antithesis of this. It is also antithetical to the proper administration of the Municipal Systems Act, which must provide democratic and accountable local government that encourages active community involvement.

The DA-led city and province effectively indicate a desire to enable developers and construction firms to undermine our collective democratic rights. This is in line with the DA’s liberal principles which prioritise unfettered business and commercial rights, in this case from an urban planning and development perspective.

The DA is simply showing its true colours as a profoundly anti-democratic party which supports the interests of free and unfettered enterprise above and beyond those of individual or of collective constitutional rights.

A collective Princess Vlei awaits us all, a chilling situation indeed.

Glenn Ashton, Noordhoek

 

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