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Friday Apr 11, 2014

Cape planning proposals ring alarm bells

Civic organisations say the City of Cape Town's call for comment on proposed changes to how planning decisions will be handled was done 'after the fact', and that the mayor had sought approval from the provincial government.

Clara Anna Fontein, a private reserve above Vissershok Road just outside Durbanville, has been earmarked as potential farmland.

The Habitat Council and the Durbanville Community Forum have made an 'urgent' call for objections to the city's application to withdraw the city's Spatial Development Framework, approved in terms of the Land Use Planning Ordinance in 2012.

One of the concerns is that this withdrawal could allow the city to review decisions involving the urban edge without provincial approval.

But Garreth Bloor, the city's mayoral committee member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, said: 'According to the constitution, the City of Cape Town, as the local authority, is instructed and compelled to make decisions on planning matters. These matters do not fall in the ambit of the Western Cape government. The new role of the province will be oversight, monitoring and support of local authorities in carrying out their municipal planning mandate.'

According to a city advertisement calling for comment, the 'intention to withdraw the structure plan is based on the need to remove the dual approval status of these plans'. The change would not affect the legal standing of the framework. However, Danny St Dare of the forum said the notice was 'merely seeking some sort of pseudo participation' after the city had decided on the application.

The public first heard about the proposed change when a report was discussed at the city's economic, environmental and spatial planning portfolio committee.

It stated: 'The executive mayor has formally requested the premier in terms of section 4 (7) of the Land Use Planning Ordinance to have the Cape Town Spatial Development Framework withdrawn as a section 4 (6) structure plan.'

Marie-Lou Roux of the Habitat Council requested copies of the email exchanges between De Lille and Local Government MEC Anton Bredell, pictured left, in terms of the Public Access to Information Act, to determine whether there had been any public participation or consultation with the council before the city called for comment.

She found there had been none, and the discussion with the province had been initiated during council recess. 'We are concerned about whether changes to the urban edge may be expected, and how appeals will be handled.'

In the city's letter, dated January 13, De Lille asked the provincial department to advise the city on the process and time frames involved in the consideration of the application. Roux said the apparent reason for the application was to allow the city to change the spatial development plan without approval from the province.

But Bloor said this was incorrect. 'Guidelines for future developments in Cape Town will remain in place. The proposed withdrawal will simply remove the current unnecessary dual status of the document and bring it in line with new, constitutionally compliant national and provincial legislation.'

Bloor confirmed that the city and province had had talks 'as would be reasonably expected where various spheres of government are involved'. He added: 'This does not affect the public participation process.'

The groups have called for a copy of the detailed application that the city submitted to the province and for the application to be readvertised with a 90-day comment period.

Cape Argus


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