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Thursday Jul 18, 2013

'Poor will suffer' if Cape agricultural land lost

It is 'irresponsible' of the mayoral committee to support carving up Cape Town's 'hidden jewel' of agricultural land in Philippi to private developers for a quick buck, because the poor will suffer, say civic and farming organisations.

Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association secretary Nazeer Sonday says it is disappointing of Mayco to support a proposal for a housing development on prime agricultural land.

On Tuesday mayco recommended that council approve an application to amend the urban edge at the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) to make way for a commercial and housing development.

Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association secretary Nazeer Sonday said consumers could pay between three and five times more for vegetables if the city lost the land as produce would have to be transported from other regions.

'The poor will suffer and it is an injustice, yet we have a city that says it is working for its people, but they do the exact opposite,' he said.

'Some 80 percent of the city's citizens don't have enough food to eat because of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Over 20 percent of fresh produce from the area is sold by hawkers and spaza shops in the poor areas while the rest is sold to major companies like Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Woolworths and Fruit and Veg City.' With rising fuel costs, the PHA was ideally located and was an important insurance policy against runaway food prices, Sonday said.

The area has been earmarked for GAP and subsidised housing after an application by Exclusive Access Trading 570, a subsidiary company of MSP developers who propose to build a commercial node and approximately 6 000 homes.

This is the second time the city has supported amending the urban edge, going against its own development policies, after it adopted the Cape Town Spatial Development Framework last year.

The framework defines the urban edge and restricts development outside of it in order to protect agricultural land and keep infrastructure costs down. The PHA, prime agricultural land, produces about 48 vegetable types, making up over half the fresh vegetables consumed in Cape Town.

According to a 2012 African Food Security Urban Network study, the PHA produces an estimated 100 000 tons of fresh produce annually.

Sonday said it was 'perplexing' that mayor Patricia de Lille and Mayco 'suddenly found urgent reasons to carve up the PHA and sell (it) off to private developers whose only aim is to make a quick buck'.

Mayco member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, Garreth Bloor, said: 'The city has to balance at times competing needs... rapid urbanisation into the city has necessitated that we urgently identify suitable land for housing. The recommendation to council is to include certain erven in the PHA into the urban edge. This does not apply to the entire PHA, in which agriculture will continue.'
Farmers and several civic organisations near Schaapkraal agree there is a dire need for housing and formed a subcommittee which developed a PHA Vision Plan.

The plan offers marginal agricultural land of approximately 800ha for urban development on the northern side of the PHA which would protect the valuable farmland on the south. The plan was presented to the local sub council and De Lille last year.

Sonday said the plan was brushed aside and that it seemed De Lille 'had already made up her mind' in November to support development on the south of the PHA.

Rob Small, founder of the Farm & Garden Trust, said it was appalling that Mayco simply ignored the real options such as the PHA Vision Plan. Small said the city's mandate did not give them the right to 'damage, even destroy, the future food and ground water system sustainability of Cape Town'.

Cape Times

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