Bid to halt 766 unit housing project

Cape Times – August 30, 2013

URBAN EDGE BREACH THREAT

Unfair, unreasonable and unlawful – these are some of the allegations the Durbanville Community Forum has made in court papers against the Western Cape government’s approval for a major housing development on agricultural land outside the urban edge.

The forum, which had ‘exhausted all other remedies’, is now taking legal action against Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, to have his decision reviewed and set aside.

The proposed development of 766 housing units is on the farm Uitkamp, owned by the AFM Louw Familie Trust. Being outside the urban edge, it not designated for urban development.

The papers said several city council departments had opposed the proposal. The city’s town planning department said the Uitkamp development was an example of ‘the type of urban sprawl which should be discouraged’ and that the developer, who wanted the urban edge changed to allow housing, had ‘failed to justify the proposed breach of the urban edge’.

The residents said when Bredell had to make a decision on the Uitkamp development, he had the ‘entire set of objections by the city, which on two occasions – in 2002-2004 and in 2009 – had dealt exhaustively with environmental and planning issues (and) produced a comprehensive table of environmental impacts, ranging from agriculture to visual and heritage’.

‘The expert evidence was there, but ignored.’

A key issue was the agricultural value of the Uitkamp land.

During the initial part of the environmental impact assessment (EIA), the developer’s consultant said 70 percent of the land was poor and less than 1 percent was of a high agricultural value.

Residents, who included farmers, challenged this in a public meeting, but this was brushed aside.

The residents got the original soil map from the Department of Agriculture, and found the developer’s consultant ‘had not only misinterpreted, but misrepresented’ the soil map.

The residents commissioned a retired Stellenbosch University soil scientist to examine the soil map.

The scientist found that up to 70 percent of the land could be classified as having high agricultural potential.

The forum said the developer’s agricultural report, far from being independent as is required by law, had been ‘in-house’.

Another problem was that the development encroached on wetlands. A wetland report had not been submitted to the authorities.

The provincial authorities had allowed an outdated heritage assessment to be used in the EIA and had ‘underplayed the negative visual impact’ the housing estate would have on the scenic route.

The forum said it appeared that two provincial officials, who were not the competent authorities, had become involved.

A provincial government memorandum revealed ‘a process which was manipulated out of the hands of the competent authority’.

The ‘trinity of irrationality, procedural irregularity and apparent incompetence’ bore the hallmark of bias in the province’s decisionmaking.

  • The provincial government said it would decide whether to oppose the court action once the papers had been reviewed by Bredell.

 

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