Uitkamp row heads to court

Tygertalk
March 28th 2013
Adri-Ann Peters 

The Durbanville Community Forum has vowed to fight the state’s decision to approve development on “historic” farmland outside the urban edge.

The Durbanville Community Forum (DCF) is raising money to mount a court challenge to a proposed mixed development on a portion of the Uitkamp Farm, off Vissershok Road on the outskirts of Durbanville.

The DCF was one of the organisations that appealed a decision by the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) on November 24 2011 to grant an Environmental Authorisation (EA) for the highly contested Uitkamp development.

An EA is written approval for a development. In this case, it was granted subject to several conditions, including a number of infrastructural upgrades such as road widening, the construction of pedestrian walkways and traffic-calming measures.

Last week, the forum, a registerd public benefit organisation, said it would apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the DEADP’s decision to uphold the EA. But they need money to mount the legal challenge and have called for donations.

DCF spokesman Danny St Dare said they planned to raise funds and build their case within three months.

The DCF’s appeal against the EA was dismissed on Thursday February 28. Mr St Dare called it “one of the sloppiest decisions” the DCF had seen from the department to date.

The development by the AFM Louw Family Trust is earmarked for a 127-hectare portion of the Uitkamp” Farm (portion 18, Uitkamp No. 189) on the outskirts of Durbanville.

Located to the north of Aurora on Vissershok Road, the site is zoned vacant land and falls just outside of the urban edge. It is being used for conference facilities and accommodation.

The more elevated portion of the farm is run as a game reserve, Clara Anna Fontein. It is not included in the development proposal.

The AFM Louw Family Trust wants to build a “lifestyle estate” of about 470 residential units and a further 176 retirement village units.

The nearby Chester House private school, which has been unable to secure extra space for its campus within the urban edge, will benefit from the development.

According to the proposal, more than eight hectares have been set aside to build a senior campus on the lower end of the northern portion of the proposed development. The introduction of sportsfields on the Vissershok Road side will form a green edge to the development.

But, Mr St Dare said, the DCF could not allow the environment and laws to be threatened by DEADP decision, which he claimed had set a “dangerous” precedent for future of environmental protection in the Western Cape.

He said the land was historically and environmentally important.

Mr St Dare said several factors made the DCF decide to go to court, including a “very important” wetland delineation study, which the DCF believes was omitted from both the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and public participation processes.

“At the time the EA was granted, the officials in the department did not seem to be aware of this, although it was identified as a requirement of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. When appellants brought this to the attention of the minister, he simply brushed it aside. The result is parts of the development are either on delineated wetland or encroach on it. This is unlawful and cannot go unchallenged,” he told Tygertalk.

The department had confirmed to the DCF that its decision was based on information from an alternative flood line report instead of the wetland delineation report, but Mr St Dare claimed the reports dealt with different issues.

He said the DCF would appeal to the court for “vigorous examination of die reports and the specialists concerned”.

The DCF also argues that the development alternative approved by the DEADP would see “substantial development” on soil that could be used for farming.

Mr St Dare said the department’s views seemed “to be at odds with each other”, because it maintained that no development would take place on large areas containing valuable soil, but it had apparently approved the development alternative that showed that 50% of the development would happen on this portion of land.

Mr St Dare said the property was outside the urban edge. He said the natural resources protected by the City’s Spatial Planning and Development Framework had been ignored and were threatened’ on the Uitkamp Farm.

Alwyn Laubscher, project manager for the Uitkamp development project, said they were pleased with the outcome of the appeal process in late February, and DEADP’s decision to uphold the EA.

He did not want to comment on the DCF’s plans to take the matter to court, apart from ‘saying the court was responsible for dealing with the merits of the case the DCF wished to lodge.

Mr Laubscher said there was a “silent majority” of residents in Durbanville who agreed with the proposed development.

He said for residents to deny the need for development and growth in Durbanville was “silly”.

“Urbanisation is taking place, and we haven’t got a choice,” he told Tygertalk.

He said the developer had followed all the correct channels to finalise a process that has run since 2001.

“We want to do the right thing in the right way. There are so many positive elements to this development, I don’t know why people are complaining,” he said.

Mr Laubscher said the next step was to finalise the application to have the land zoned for development. He believed building could start early next year.

For more information about the DCF’s court application, contact George Sieraha on 082 490 7628 or email gsieraha@gmail.com

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