Cape Town tight-lipped over controversial Durbanville development

Cape Town tight-lipped over controversial Durbanville development

Cape Argus : 1st February 2011

By: JOHN YELD, Environment & Science Writer

Mayor Dan Plato has declined to reveal the outcome of a discussion with his executive mayoral committee colleagues about the proposed Uitkamp residential development at Durbanville, which has raised the hackles of several civic and environmental groups.

This follows an informal meeting on Friday afternoon.

The groups were angered by Mayco’s decision in early December to support development plans for 650 homes on the 127-hectare farm between the Durbanville suburb of Aurora and the Clara Anna Fontein game reserve.

This was despite a city report recommending that the council should not approve the plan, partly on the grounds that it lay outside the urban edge and was zoned for agricultural use. The critics claimed that Mayco’s decision was further evidence of the DA administration’s general weakness in protecting the city’s shrinking natural environment and unique biodiversity.

But this charge was denied, and deputy mayor and Mayco member for finance Ian Nielson took the unusual step of sending out a widely distributed and comprehensive rebuff of the criticism.

“It is clear from the contents of the e-mails (sent to Mayco members) that there is inadequate information on exactly what decision was taken by Mayco, a lack of knowledge on the matter being dealt with, and what information was presented to the mayoral committee,” he wrote last month.

Premier Helen Zille has reportedly also been drawn into the issue, although there has not been any official confirmation of what role, if any, she may have played in discussions. It is her provincial administration that will take the decision on the development application.

In mid-December, Mayco member for economic development Felicity Purchase told civic groups and objectors that a meeting was being arranged between Plato, Zille and the city’s Pepco (planning and environment portfolio committee) to discuss the issue.

In early January, Geoff Neden of the Glencairn Action Group – one of the groups concerned about Uitkamp – sent a message to Purchase asking whether this meeting had yet been held. However, she was in Antarctica on an official visit to South Africa’s Sanae base at the time.

Last Tuesday, Purchase’s executive PA, Anita Jenkinson replied to Neden, saying that a preliminary meeting had taken place.

“We hope to give you more of a response by next week as the mayor will be briefing/ meeting with the whole of Mayco on Friday (January 28).”

Plato did meet Mayco members, but the meeting was billed as “political”, without any formal city involvement.

“It was only a discussion session and no formal decisions have been made. You will be notified when a decision is finalised,” Plato’s media spokeswoman, Rulleska Singh, told the Cape Argus.

Neden has also not yet been briefed.

The Durbanville Community Forum has launched a formal appeal against Mayco’s recommendation, lodging papers last Thursday in terms of the Municipal Systems Act.

Spokesman Danny St Dare explained yesterday that the city now had to establish an appeal authority.

“The full content of the appeal is sub judice and we need to have faith that the matter will be properly heard on the arguments put forward,” he said. “However, due to the interest and concerns raised in response to the Mayco decision, and the fact that we believe there are strong reasons as to why the Mayco decision should be revoked, we will probably be making an announcement outlining the basis of our appeal.”

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