Civic Groups petition Cape Town Council

Cape Argus – May 21, 2014

Plan to build on fertile soils slated

THE PRESENCE of unique agricultural soils on Uitkamp farm in Durbanvillle was played down or even ignored in the decision-making process that approved extensive development on this historic property, say civic groups.

This is one of the major arguments in part three of their three-part “complaint-petition” being sent to authorities after this development was controversially approved by the City of Cape Town at its April 24 meeting, from which the opposition ANC was excluded.

The petition, compiled by the Durbanville Community Forum in terms of the Municipal Systems Act, is in response to the green light being given for about 700 houses, a school and a nature reserve to be established on 127 hectares on the farm, which is in the heart of the Durbanville wine valley and includes a significant wetland.

The petition was sent to mayor Patricia de Lille, pictured, city manager Achmat Ebrahim, all councillors and the MEC for Planning and Environment, Anton Bredell.

The city has confirmed receiving all three parts of the petition.

The newly appointed mayoral committee member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe, said yesterday that a response would be given to the forum “in due time”.

The forum is an umbrella body representing 13 ratepayers’ associations and forums and has filed an application for a high court review of the province’s November 2011 environmental authorisation for the project. Its appeal to have the matter removed from the April 24 council agenda was unsuccessful, despite a legal recommendation being made to the city’s spatial planning, environment, and land use management committee last year that any decision be put on hold until after the court action had been finalised.

The forum said it had divided its petition into three parts because the issues were “complex”.

Part one, submitted on April 29, dealt with its allegations of lack of due process and maladministration in the decision-making process; part two, sent on May 2, with the alleged general threat to the wetlands on the property; and part three – sent on Friday – with concerns about the threat to the medium- and high-potential soils on the property and to the environment, and the forum’s call for an independent forensic audit.

Part :3 is supported by many pages of documentation. It says: “In view of the fact that medium- to high-potential (unique) agricultural soils are a scarce natural resource, especially in the Western Cape, and particularly in the greater Cape Metropolis, the Department of Agriculture is statutorily obliged to protect these soils… the council decision ignores this statutory obligation.

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