Uproar over urban creep as Cape Town flouts its own rulings on agricultural land

Cape Times – 23 July, 2013

 Uproar over urban creep as Cape Town flouts its own rulings on agricultural land 

Cape Town’s mayoral committee has flouted its own city council policies in agreeing to move the urban edge to allow thousands of houses to be built on valuable agricultural land in Philippi.

It has also gone against the national and provincial agricultural departments, and against departments in the city council.

Mayco’s justification for cocking a snook at council policies is that there is an ‘urgent need for housing’. However, the city council’s own report, which assessed how much land was available for development inside the urban edge, states there is ‘sufficient land availability for development within the urban edge until 2021’. This, it says, is a conservative projection.

Mayco’s controversial move has led some Capetonians to query in whose interests the committee is acting.

Gavin Smith of the Greater Cape Town Alliance said: ‘What mayco did flies in the face of the city’s promoting of food security. It flies in the face of sustainable development. It makes a mockery of the years spent developing the spatial development framework, and the millions spent on the framework. What was that for? Just a marketing exercise to say: ‘We care’? No, they don’t care, and this is proof.’

The application for the development at Philippi was made in 2011 on behalf of Exclusive Access Trading 570, a subsidiary of MSP developers, which proposes a 10-hectare commercial node and about 6 000 houses. In November mayco turned down the application, but last week changed its mind and will recommend to council that last year’s decision be rescinded to allow the urban edge to be moved and the housing to go ahead.

‘What’s going on behind the scenes we don’t know, but it’s just wrong,’ Smith said.

Mayco’s decision contravenes the Cape Town Spatial Development Framework, approved by council last year, which took the city five years to develop with extensive public input. The framework states that the ‘loss of agricultural land to urban development threatens food security in the city’ and says one of Cape Town’s assets is ‘high potential and unique agricultural land’. Policy 28 of the framework states that existing farmed areas must be protected from urban encroachment, and urban agriculture must be supported. In particular, the city must police land uses in the Philippi Horticultural Area which do not conform to agriculture. It says the city must ‘investigate and encourage’ opportunities to expand urban agriculture, and rates Philippi as an area of ‘significant agricultural value’.

Mayco’s decision also contravenes the city council’s Urban Agriculture Policy which aims to enable the poor to use urban agriculture for survival and to make a living.

It goes against the Western Cape government’s Sustainable Human Settlements Strategy, which is a shift from providing RDP-type housing to creating sustainable human settlements with sustainable resource use.

It contradicts the city council’s Evaluation of Developable Land Within the Urban Edge report of 2010 which states that there is enough land to develop inside the urban edge until 2021.

It contradicts the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation policy which states that with the rapid growth of cities, often accompanied by poverty and hunger, ‘policy makers must actively seize the opportunities offered by urban agriculture’.


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