Sinister moves by the city’s land-use department in Philippi

Cape Times – 22 July 2013
By Len Swimmer
Chairman, Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

There is something very sinister happening in the City’s land use planning department. On 29 May an attempt, sponsored by the latest mayoral committee (MAYCO) member for Economic, Environmental & Spatial Planning (EE&SP), to remove all authority from sub-councils concerning land use planning applications, and with it the public’s right to participate in the decision-making process, was only thwarted by a number of councillors refusing to approve the measure. The matter has not gone away. It was on MAYCO’s agenda for the 16th of this month but has been postponed until August.

Now we learn that at the MAYCO meeting on the 16th of this month the same EE&SP member persuaded the mayor and her colleagues to overturn a decision taken last November regarding the most productive & fertile part of the Phillipi Horticultural Area (PHA).

At their November 2012 meeting MAYCO considered – AND TURNED DOWN – an application for an amendment to the then recently approved Cape Town Spatial Development Framework to alter the urban edge line and permit a change of designation from ‘agriculture areas of significant value’ to ‘urban development’ for an area of 281 ha in the south-west quadrant of PHA, so that a middle and lower income suburb can be built there. This application was not supported by the vast majority of the City’s departments or by the then EE&SP MAYCO member, nor, significantly, by the Western Cape Departments of Agriculture and Sustainable Resource Management who wrote jointly: “ … it is clear that all anticipated growth of the urban footprint for Cape Town, can be accommodated within the demarcated urban edge. In terms of the findings of the Draft Evaluation of Developable Land within the Urban Edge (August 2010), a study conducted by the City of Cape Town, there is approximately 11,000 ha of land available within the urban edge until 2021. This application is therefore a deviation from the agreed upon spatial vision for the City of Cape Town. The (application) area is situated in an intensively cultivated (irrigated) and mining area and represents a significant portion of the PHA. The loss of high potential & unique agricultural land and amendment of the Structure Plan are not supported by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.”

The comment about other suitable land for housing was also set out clearly last October in the City’s report “The role of the Phillipi Agricultural Area in securing the future of the City”. That report also dealt extensively with the value of the PHA as a food and mineral source and noted there are mining rights over a sizeable portion of the area in question.

Yet the only reason given by the EE&SP department to MAYCO last Tuesday for overturning their November 2012 decision was the pressing need for land for low-cost housing. No mention was made as to whether any attempt had been made to develop any of the areas identified in the October 2012 report. The loss of a very valuable food source for ever was brushed over. The mining rights question was not even addressed.

This initiative has all the hallmarks of a department which wants to take the easy way out now that it has a compliant MAYCO member at its head. Fortunately, if the City persists in trying to get the Urban Edge shifted and the PHA zoning altered it will have to get the provincial government’s permission on two counts: the moving of the urban edge and an environmental impact authorisation, both of which require a public participation process.

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