Roll up red carpet for developers and listen to residents

Philip Bam
Chairman LOGRA Civic

Reading between the lines of recent statements made by the Mayor, whom we know to have been a fierce campaigner for civil liberties and participation by the people, then one cannot help but wonder as to who is really pulling the strings.

We know that the party she now represents has quite a dominant old NP component but to ascribe the changes to their influence would be too simplistic.

Recently it was announced that the Mayor would appoint what one would call a “red carpet facilitator”. Read this with the proposal to change delegations in respect of planning issues and changing the mandate of the Spatial, Environmental, Land use and Planning committee making it a toothless instrument, delegating decision making powers to officials and one can’t but wonder what is going on.

Then one reads the business plan of the Western Cape Developers Forum and the red lights start flickering. Their strategy document states and I quote: ” 7.1.1 Establish municipal development facilitation unit.” and 7.1.2: ” secure 1-stop approval service across all relevant departments.” Now let’s compare this with the reported speech of the Mayor to the Cape Chamber of Commerce. “In our new approach the private sector (read developers) won’t have to deal with 20 different people in the city…instead we will have a one-user interface..”

They seem to have secured this “1-stop approval service“. And so we can go on and on. What chance does civil society and ratepayer representative organization have under these circumstance. When civil society structures asked to be part of this development forum for the City, we were told that it is only for the professionals.

It is a matter of great concern that one of the most important elements in the development approval process, viz public participation is being whittled away. Much is made of adhering to the requirements of the law in terms of public participation but in practice it really means ticking the box and ignoring the community input.

The recent decision on the urban edge in Philippi is an example. The City’s handling of the Princess Vlei issue is another where overwhelming community opposition to the inappropriate development of a mall seem to be ignored and ways being sought as to how the land can be sold to the developer. So much for respecting the public participation process.

When the city’s political leadership attacks opponents of bad development decisions as ignoramuses, “not knowing the facts”; “ill-informed; “misinformed” and “faceless” then one cannot but recognize power arrogance gone mad.

Cape Town is blessed with an active citizenry. We expect the City leaders to see this as an advantage to achieve a well balanced and caring city. Meaningful engagement with its civil society structures such as the Greater Cape `Town Civic Alliance would enhance planning decisions.

It would appear that of late the City political leadership sees public participation as a necessary inconvenience to be tolerated but not to be taken seriously.

This approach is a recipe for disaster. The City should roll up its red carpet for developers and give the ratepayer representative bodies equal status to make meaningful contributions to sensible development where nature, people and the built environment can live comfortably together.


3 comments to Roll up red carpet for developers and listen to residents

  • Philip Bam

    Forgot to say that the problem today in government is that there’s too much honey around. You see Chris the age makes me forget.

  • Philip Bam

    With age comes wisdom and the sense of discernment. Change is always welcome and it appears that Chris makes me a NAT by my surname. I don’t see anything that smacks of the NP racist card in my letter. I have been an opponent of the racism all my life. I am proudly of Khoi heritage and do understand the delicate balance between nature and the built environment. The change to greed development and power arrogance can never be accepted as good change.

  • Chris Potgieter

    It is clear that Phillip Bam has aged beyond the point that he understands that change is inevitable. Better to manage it as a partner than start throwing the old racist NP card. Engage with the City and you will find that the majority of the Councillors will be on your side but do this keeping in mind that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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