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Wednesday Jul 17, 2013

Cape Town to rezone farmland despite objections

The City of Cape Town wants to rezone valuable agricultural land in Philippi to build houses so that it can respond to the 'urgent need' to provide more housing for its growing population.

More than half of the city's vegetables - an estimated 100 000 tons a year - are produced in the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA).

The city's mayoral committee agreed yesterday that an application last year to amend the urban edge and rezone the 281 hectares in the south-west quadrant of this area for urban development should be recommended to the council.

The application, submitted by Headland Planners on behalf of Exclusive Access Trading, a subsidiary of MSP Developments, in 2011, was initially put on hold.

The city subsequently commissioned a long-term food security study so that it could better understand the role of the area.

But the mayoral committee has now approved a recommendation to rescind this decision, so that the application can be reconsidered.

According to the report, the development that will cater for gap and subsidised housing 'needs to be considered with the highest priority given the burden of service delivery (the city) is currently facing'.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city could not ignore the 2011 census figures which revealed a 37.5 percent increase to 3 740 025 in Cape Town's population since 2001.

According to a 2010 council document - 'An evaluation of developable land within the urban edge' - it was predicted that the city would have enough land to meet its needs until 2021. It noted that if the need for housing intensified, it would be prudent to review the alignment of the city's urban edge in 2016.

But Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for economic, environmental and spatial development, said the city's housing need was even more urgent than assumed from previous census data, and it was therefore necessary to amend the urban edge.

By allowing urban development on land previously designated as 'agriculture areas with significant value', the city could provide 'hundreds more houses'.

There were strong objections to the application last year to change the urban edge - from within the council, affected farmers and communities, civic organisations and the provincial and national government.

Objections were lodged by the then national and provincial departments of agriculture, Heritage Western Cape, and the city's economic and human development directorate, environmental resource management and city parks.

The latest proposal to present the application to the council has again met with resistance, even from within the directorate responsible for drafting the documentation.

Nazeer Sonday, of the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association, said reconsidering the application was 'irresponsible'.

He said the area was important because of its contribution to the city's food security. He was concerned that farmers would be tempted by offers from developers wanting to buy the land.

'If they do sell, it will mean that food will have to be trucked in and this will hit consumers. Prices would go up four or five times.'
Sonday said about 600ha of marginal farming land could be used for housing instead.

Philip Bam of the Lotus River, Ottery and Grassy Park Ratepayers' Association agreed. 'There are many other spaces where developments could take place, and that are less sensitive.' He suggested that unused government buildings could make way for housing developments.

'The concern of the civic organisations is that the urban edge was decided by public participation. For ( the council) to change it, just because they have the power to change it, is not good for the future of the city.'

Last year, the city's spatial planning and urban design department deemed the application as 'wholly inconsistent with the relevant city planning policy' and 'undesirable in terms of the future role of the PHA'.

But according to the latest report, 'increasing land invasion and a population migration... have forced an urgent reconsideration of the facts of the application'.

Cape Argus

    
 

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