NO to Philippi and YES to WesCape development

Cape Argus
Tuesday 14 January 2014

Cape Town – The controversial proposal to develop the Philippi Horticultural Area – the rich agricultural area of the Cape Flats known as the city’s “bread-basket” – has been turned down by provincial Planning MEC Anton Bredell.

But Bredell has given the nod to a change in the city’s structure plan that could pave the way for development of the equally controversial Wescape multibillion-rand “self-sustaining mini-city” proposal north of Blaauwberg.

His decision on Philippi will probably stall (edited) a complaint by the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, sent just last week, to investigate the alleged “irrational, illegal and unconstitutional behaviour” of mayor Patricia de Lille and her mayoral committee.

This was because the council agreed in November 2012 to shelve an application for the 6 000-unit, mixed-use development in Philippi until it had considered the findings of an independent food system study of the metro’s food networks.

But in May last year the mayoral committee had a change of heart and resolved that, given the “massive demand for housing and increased burden of delivery”, a review of the urban edge – a statutory planning tool designed to protect rural land from urban creep – needed to be undertaken “with great urgency”.

Both development proposals – the Philippi and Wescape – were supported by the city’s DA political leadership but drew major flak from residents, ratepayers and non-government groups.

They were cited as examples of how the DA administration was allegedly wooing development at the expense of the environment, and centralising land-use planning approvals while reducing the opportunity for public participation.

The Philippi decision was welcomed as “good news” by the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance and as “fantastic” by the Save the Philippi Horticultural Area group.

The response to the Wescape decision was muted, with alliance chairman Len Swimmer saying they were not so concerned about it as it was opposed by all the city officials. They did not believe this proposal – which is only aimed at post-2020 – would become reality.

“While we don’t agree with the Wescape development, we’d rather accept this than have the Philippi Horticultural Area destroyed,” he said.

“We support the city’s officials and the UCT reports (by planning experts) that the Wescape development will be a burden to the Cape Town taxpayers. The enormous costs and strain in infrastructure make this development a pipe dream.

Nazeer Sonday, secretary of the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association and spokesman for the Save the Philippi Horticultural Area, described Bredell’s decision as “a victory for the people of Cape Town who have spoken out against this development”.

He called for greater co-operation and a closer working relationship between the city and residents so that an overall management plan for the Philippi Horticultural Area could be put in place.

The two decisions, announced on Monday by Bredell, both involved applications to amend the city’s Spatial Development Framework and to change the defined urban edge.

The Philippi proposal was to change the designation of 281 hectares of land involving 38 privately-owned properties in the south-western sector of the agricultural area, from “agricultural land of significant value” to “urban development”.

Wescape is a proposal for a self-sustaining mini city and is set to be built between Melkbosstrand and Atlantis on the north-western edge of the metropole.

The city’s biggest urban development project to date, the 3 100-hectare proposal will be the first mega-housing development since Mitchells Plain was established in the early 1970s.

The R140 billion project involves 200 000 houses, 415 schools, 370 public service facilities and 15 sports complexes built over the next 10 to 15 years, and the population of this “mini city” is expected to reach 800 000 by 2036.

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