The City of Cape Town is expected to give agricultural experts a hearing as it inspects land this week, while activists continue to campaign for the protection of the Philipi Horticultural Area (PHA).
The City’s municipal planning tribunal is expected to conduct a site inspection after the PHA Food and Farming Campaign successfully won an appeal against it’s latest development.
Trustee of PHA Food and Farming Campaign Suzanna Coleman explained that the ruling stated that developers U-vest Property Group application lacks spatial logic and will impact on the rights of the community.
Coleman said that the group is satisfied with the case reaching a mayoral committee, noting that it is the first time they’ve been successfully heard in 10 years.
“We are quite happy to go down to the process. It’s a big pain but everyone has the right to have their applications processed correctly. The hearing on Tuesday involved an appeal (where) the municipal training tribunal indicated what’s been happening since June last year. They are starting to defend the PHA land.”
She added however that the continued court battles are taking its toll on the organization and that they are often outnumbered by court representatives.
“We are doing our best to stop the developments. We have filed a court case against nine different development decisions, which is a great deal of hard work for a community organization. We are struggling to afford this now that they’ve moved up to a High Court level.”
According to Coleman, their case was thrown out by then-mayor Patricia De Lille’s office in 2012, due to an unspecified “conflict of interest”. Coleman said the Bowman’s report showed that De Lille refused to put an Heritage protection Overlay Zone (HPOZ) on the area.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment Ald. Marian Nieuwoudt said it is up to “land owners to come out and say this is what we want protected.”
Coleman highlighted that several studies have indicated that the area is not designed for any building.
“The mayor had argued that the land will be used for low cost housing, but the water table is one meter below the surface, so you can’t put up housing there (like) there is across the road in Pelican Park. None of it is off the top of our heads, there have been eight studies on the PHA that have never, ever recommended the area for housing. So putting up shopping markets or private prisons, etc, just doesn’t make any sense.
Niewoudt pointed out that the site visit is expected to shed more light on the campaigners plea.
“As the situation stands the tribunal has turned the application down and its now on appeal with us and we are going to do the site visit with the expertise from the City core so we can make up our minds.”
She added that the City maintains its hopes of building in certain areas of the PHA.
“If you look at the spatial frame work and also the district planning for the area, the core has been identified on the PHA where there is also current farming activities. Then also the lower end towards the sea, is within the conservation area where we would like to have the farming activity carried on. But on the surrounding areas, there is a fairly not-so-strict conservation area but the idea is that we will rather develop agriculture, value adding industries.”
Coleman pointed out that the aquifer is essential and that the latest ruling pointed out that the understanding of it’s impact is not clear enough.
“The City’s process of tapping into the aquifer does include a recharge plan, but you need areas to be able to recharge. The area along the southern coastline would need very specific injections in order to protect the aquifer from sea water ingress. “
She added that using the land as farmland is the more sustainable option and that it contributes to job creation.
“It’s much better to keep that area as farmland, it can be used as part of the Cape Flats aquifer recharge. You don’t draw water out of it unless you are putting it back in. We crunched the numbers. At this rate, in 2030 we will have double the population in Cape Town but only half or a third of the farm land. So the City really does need to call a halt to this at some point.”
Nieuwoudt said the City is however of the opinion that building will preserve the land.
“The replenishing from farming activity is also polluting the aquifer and if you do urbanization and use a hard surface then you also, to a large extent, preserve the aquifer. But both sides has got crops and plants and that’s why we will rather go out ourselves and have an expert explain.”
Coleman said the City’s inspection should prove the campaigns point.
“Once the committee has been to the farmland and see the potential there. It simply doesn’t make sense to put housing, or super markets or private schools or private prisons on prime agricultural land in a drying City that needs to preserve that land.”