Mayco approval of development queried

Open criticism of DA decisions by supporters

Cape Argus : 17th December 2010

By: JOHN YELD, Environment & Science Writer

PREMIER Helen Zille is being drawn into an increasingly bitter row between the City of Cape Town’s mayoral commit­tee and civic and Peninsula environmental groups over Mayco’s support for a contro­versial housing development in Durbanville.

But the row also has a wider dimension, with criticism of the DA administration as a whole because of some of its planning and development decisions at both provincial and local government level during the past 20 months.

Mayco member for planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt is at the heart of the dis­pute, and has come in for a severe pasting over the past fortnight in a flurry of e-mails between the civic and environ­mental groups, and between these groups and politicians.

Nieuwoudt hit back with a strongly-worded response in which she questioned whether her critics understood “the con­cept of a growing city and a changing city in order for us as a country to stay globally com­petitive”, and ”the difference between urban growth and urban sprawl”.

The row, which has been building since last year, came to a head earlier this month when Mayco supported development plans for 650 homes on the 127ha farm Uitkamp 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 lies outside the urban edge and is zoned for agricultural use.

The report stated, inter alia, that the development would have “limited socio-economic benefits” and was not in keep­ing with the planning of the area, or the principles for amending the urban edge.

But Nieuwoudt slammed the drafters of the report and supported the project, saying it would lead to job creation and economic growth.

The issue will now feature at a meeting between Zille, Cape Town’s mayor Dan Plato and the city’s planning and environment portfolio commit­tee (Pepco). Nieuwoudt’s Mayco colleague Felicity Pur­chase has confirmed.

“There are some new mat­ters which have come to light and they need to be addressed,” she told the civic groups in an e-mail on Wednesday.

The D’Urbanvale Residents Forum reacted with “utter dis­belief” to Mayco’s support for the planned development, say­ing that members felt “totally betrayed” by the current DA administration.

The Durbanville Commu­nity Forum reported “an unprecedented and overwhel­ing reaction” from the commu­nity, and said the development, if allowed, could signal the start of a “development domino effect that will change the face of Cape Town forever”.

In a letter to Mayco, the Dur­banville Heritage Society placed on record its “strong objection”.

More criticism and objec­tions came from the Far South Peninsula Community Forum, Glencairn Action Group, Simon’s Town Civic Associa­tion, and Wessa (Wildlife and Environment Society of SA).

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance sent a letter to Plato, expressing concern about how land-use planning decisions were being taken in Cape Town, and calling on mayco to reverse its Uitkamp support.

“We put it to you that this is an example of a thoroughly bad development decision that should be rescinded immedi­ately. We further put it to you that the decision is in conflict with draft strategics, policies and plans, and goes against all of their predecessors.”

Nieuwoudt replied, saying she had read the alliance’s let­ter to Plato “with growing con­cern” and did not believe the alliance expected “responsible leaders” to deny Cape Town such a major investment.

The development would boost the economy by R5 868 million, create 12240 additional jobs during con­struction and 796 permanent jobs, and increase rates income by R11m a year, she argued – “this through no capital invest­ment from our rates income.”

But Nieuwoudt’s figures were immediately rejected, with one commentator saying “Fifa in their most desperate spin cycle would have baulked at this”.

Noordhoek civic and envi­ronmental activist Glenn Ashton said the “real snake in the wood pile” was the issue of party political funding.

“This relates not just to Mayco but to the ruling politi­cal party, in our case the DA”.

“Developers fund political parties and control municipal­ities – look no further than Hermanus. What’s happening there is very much being repeated here.”

Geoff Neden of Glencairn Action Group agreed. “The sighs of relief when the DA took over from the ANC seem to have been premature.”

1 comment to Mayco approval of development queried

  • Cape Town Regional Planner

    This is a bad decision by the DA, and the Greater Cape Town City Alliance should be commended for calling them out on it. Nieuwoudt must recognise that we cannot afford in Cape Town to follow the ‘city as a growth machine’ model like Gauteng and flyover state American cities, converting agri and open space into low rise residential sprawl at an industrial scale by the self-reinforcing cycle of property speculation and the quasi-legal cooption of local government actors. Whether her antidiluvian perspective on sustainable development is out of sheer cultural ‘agtergeblewenheid’ or whether it is motivated by political or pecuniary short term interests, she must be replaced! C

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