Durbanville forum fights to preserve historic farmland

Cape Argus
16 August 2013

Developers want to turn the barrier land between Aurora and Clara Fontein Nature Reserve into a housing estate.

 

An application to build a lifestyle estate on the historic Farm Uitkamp in the Durbanville Winelands is ‘substantially, fundamentally and ultimately fatally flawed’, says the Durbanville Community Forum.

The body which represents 13 ratepayers’ associations and forums, says it has new soil evidence challenging the applicant’s premise that the land is not agriculturally valuable.

‘If they can’t accept the new findings and that up to 70 percent of the land should be preserved for agriculture, then they need to produce scientific research (that proves otherwise),’ said Durbanville Community Forum (DCF) spokesman, Danny St Dare.

But the applicant, First Plan Town and Regional Planners, said this was a bid to stall the application. Speaking at a meeting of the city’s spatial planning portfolio committee yesterday, Gideon Roos said of the new research: ‘This is too little, too late and presented at the wrong forum.’

The city’s spatial planning portfolio committee took a different view, and agreed to defer its decision on the application until it had made a site visit. The findings would then be reported at its September meeting.

In dispute are 127ha of agricultural land between Aurora and Clara Fontein Nature Reserve. The land is zoned for agricultural use, although the Department of Agriculture agreed in 1995 that it could be developed.

Its members are concerned that recent moves to change the urban edge elsewhere in the city, such as using the Philippi Horticultural Area for residential development, may give this application greater impetus.

The forum is meanwhile taking local government, environmental affairs and development planning MEC Anton Bredell, to court to set aside the environmental authorisation given by Bredell in February.

St Dare said the application would require the city’s only celebration edge to be moved for an urban development. A celebration edge is a non-negotiable demarcation which preserves the interface between urban and rural areas. He said the area was defined as such by the Western Cape Spatial Development Plan, which was recently finalised. The City’s Spatial Development Framework of 2011 says urban development outside of the urban edge should be discouraged.

Farm Uitkamp is not indicated in this plan as being desirable for development in the medium to long term.

The DCF and First Plan made presentations to the portfolio committee. The DCF said First Plan had no scientific evidence that the land was of low to medium agricultural potential. First Plan has also not been able to show why this development could not be done elsewhere.

Other concerns included the visual and traffic impacts of the estate, which will include group and singleunit housing, a retirement village, a campus for Chesterhouse School, a nature reserve and a sports field.

Roos said the development would only be on Portion 18 in the northern section of the site. Portion 19 of the farm was protected by legislation and could not be farmed. There would 646 residential units and the estate would allow for the upgrade of access routes to the area. A third of it would remain as open space, he said.

Referring to concerns about the celebration edge, Roos said the city had noted before that this was not a ‘holy grail’ that could never be moved.

He said the development had several approvals to date, including from the Department of Agriculture, the South African Heritage Resources Agency and provincial government. He disputed the existence of the DCF’s ‘alleged’ new information.

The construction would create 160 jobs and generate R151 million in municipal income, and would bring in R12 million annually in rates and taxes. ‘We are past the time to harvest from failed crops.’

 

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