A ‘dou­ble whammy’ to City over land deal

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - BULELWA PAYI

THE City of Cape Town has been ac­cused of “play­ing dou­ble jeop­ardy” with the Philippi Hor­ti­cul­tural Area (PHA) fol­low­ing its at­tempts to buy of land within the PHA from a developer.

It has also been ac­cused of want­ing to buy the land at a price higher than its cur­rent value.

The City wants to buy the land from UVest Prop­er­ties on con­di­tion that it is re­zoned for res­i­den­tial pur­poses. The City’s in­terim plan­ning com­mit­tee vis­ited the site about two weeks ago be­cause it wanted to ap­prove an ap­pli­ca­tion for “in­fill­ing hous­ing”.

In­fill hous­ing ap­plies where roads are al­ready avail­able and there is ac­cess to wa­ter and elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

Cope coun­cil­lor Farouk Cas­sim said the City would be hit with a “dou­ble whammy” if it went ahead with the plans as this would dam­age the Cape Flats aquifer, a pos­si­ble wa­ter source for the city – and also have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on other in­fra­struc­ture.

“So, if the City goes ahead with the plans it will cause dou­ble dam­age – to the wa­ter sup­ply and on other in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­ment. That de­ci­sion would be short­sighted. Our chil­dren would ask us why we took such a stupid de­ci­sion,” Cas­sim said.

The PHA on the Cape Flats is an above-ground catch­ment area which in­cludes farm­land and wet­lands that serve an un­der­ground fresh­wa­ter sys­tem, the Cape Flats Aquifer.

The aquifer is a mas­sive in­te­grated ground­wa­ter sys­tem which is es­ti­mated to be 630 km² – enough to sup­ply a third of the city’s fresh­wa­ter sup­ply.

Cas­sim said should the de­vel­op­ment take place, this would dam­age the aquifer as con­tam­i­na­tion could oc­cur and wa­ter lev­els drop, which would also lead to salt wa­ter seep­ing in.

Some of the land is owned by UVest, and an­other developer, Oakland City. De­spite sev­eral stud­ies that have high­lighted the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing the PHA for food se­cu­rity, the City’s in­terim Plan­ning Com­mit­tee ap­proved on Novem­ber 8, the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion.

The de­ci­sion, said the City, was sub­ject to the right of ap­peal to be is­sued to the ap­pli­cant and ob­jec­tors in Jan­uary.

Kevin James, of GXC Africa, said the City’s pro-de­vel­op­ment pol­icy was a “bad idea” which would cost the cit­i­zens sig­nif­i­cantly given the drought in the re­gion.

“They should look at the fer­tile land in the PHA as an op­por­tu­nity to drive sus­tain­able wa­ter and food sup­ply,” he added. GCX Africa de­scribes it­self as an or­gan­i­sa­tion which “helps trans­form or­gan­i­sa­tions into sus­tain­able busi­nesses, with best prac­tice cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity”.

The PHA Cam­paign, which is backed by 33 civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, has ques­tioned the City’s ra­tio­nale be­hind the pur­chase of the land, which it be­lieved would be sold at R52 mil­lion, far above at the cur­rent value of over R20m.

“Why is the City want­ing to buy the land when it has no real man­date from ratepay­ers to make the pur­chase, and ig­nor­ing all the ev­i­dence sub­mit­ted by the stud­ies that it should be pre­served as agri­cul­tural land?” asked the cam­paign’s Nazeer Son­day.

He warned that should a de­ci­sion to al­low de­vel­op­ment in the PHA be taken, it would only ben­e­fit a few “the de­vel­op­ers and the mayor”, and not the com­mu­nity.

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