Civic groups object to encroaching developers

Cape Argus 22/07/2013

Furore over Philippi Farms

Civic groups object to encroaching developers

CIVIC organisations have hit back at the City of Cape Town’s proposed changes to the urban edge to allow for development in Philippi as a “slap in the face” which will see valuable farmland being sold off to private developers wanting to make a “quick buck”.

The city’s mayoral committee is to recommend to the council that a 2012 decision to hold off on an application for low-cost housing in Philippi should be rescinded.

If it is approved, the city will have to amend its urban edge to allow for development on agricultural land.

According to the report, the city’s “urgent” need for housing has forced the city to reconsider the application submitted by Exclusive Access Trading, a subsidiary of MSP planners to build Gap and subsidised housing.

But Len Swimmer of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance said: “Any application to alter the urban edge will need to be subjected to public participation, and a vigorous debate can be expected.”

Nazeer Sonday, of the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association, said the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) community was “deeply disappointed and concerned” with the proposal.

“It is… perplexing why our mayor and her mayoral committee suddenly found urgent reasons to carve up the PHA and sell her off to private developers.”

He said the PHA community had tried for four years to get the council and the provincial government to deal with illegal dumping, growth of informal settlements and housing.

It had also drawn up a PHA Vision Plan offering marginal agricultural land of about 800 hectares which could be used for urban development and industrial activity, while saving the most fertile farmlands for food production.

Gavin Smith of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance said: “Not only is this decision… a slap in the face to everyone who engaged with the spatial development public participation process, it also places a question mark on the… costs incurred in a process that spanned many years before its implementation.” He said the decision was therefore “tantamount to wasteful expenditure”.

Sonday said the PHA was the city’s “hidden jewel” which had provided food security for centuries. Smith said the proposal would open the door for a “Joburg by the sea”.

As public opinion was being disregarded, “other forms of action” would be necessary to protect the city from this type of development. “(Heaven) forbid that this regime ever gets its grubby paws on the Winelands. It’s apparent that tourism, the local economy’s major export, jobs and food security mean little to the city in practical terms.”

 

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