Fight for protection of PHA continues

The City says they are currently processing three major rezoning applications, two by Uvest Property Group and another one by Oaklands City Development Company, for the Philippi Horticultural Area.

Despite reservations from the Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign, it looks like the City of Cape Town is still planning to develop at least some of the land in the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA).

Spokesperson for the City, Priya Reddy, said this week that the City is in the process of exploring various options for the PHA.

“This is in the hope of finding sustainable solutions that can strike the right balance of maximising the agricultural potential of the area while responding to the broader urbanisation demands placed on the City,” said Ms Reddy.

According to the City, they are currently processing three major rezoning applications, two by Uvest Property Group and another one by Oaklands City Development Company.

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, however, said none of these have been considered by the relevant committees of council yet.

Ms Reddy said the City engaged the services of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP) to run a partnering project in the broader Philippi area.

“This is so that a broad vision and strategy can be developed over the next year that will maximise the area’s potential for economic development, job creation, agriculture and housing,” she said.

Over the past few years the PHA Food and Farming Campaign, under the leadership of Nazeer Sonday, has been in battle with the City to stop development on prime agricultural land in the PHA, also known as the “breadbasket” of Cape Town (‘PHA under ‘threat’, Southern Mail, 4 November 2015).

The PHA Food and Farming Campaign alleges that the City has not been following proper application and public participation procedures since Uvest Property Group and Oaklands City Development Company have made applications to rezone land in the PHA.

Mr Van der Merwe has, however, denied this and said proper processes have been followed when land use applications have been concluded.

“All comments and objections made in respect of the land use applications will be considered in the assessment and decision-making process. The objectors to the land use applications as well as the applicant will be granted a right of appeal should a decision be made by any committee of council,” said Mr Van der Merwe.

During a press conference held by the members of the Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign last week, they handed out documents with minutes from a spatial planning, environment and land use management committee meeting last year, alleging that the City is planning on buying land in the PHA – this was, however, not confirmed or denied by the City.

In a bid to keep the PHA undeveloped and to protect the aquifer located below the PHA, the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association has resubmitted a request for the Public Protector to investigate the development decisions in the PHA, requesting that the City be obligated to fulfil the enforcement of by-laws relating to land use and the right for public participation and inclusion.

Mr Van der Merwe said if communication is received from the Office of the Public Protector in this regard, the City will “ensure that the mandate of the Public Protector can be executed in full”.

The campaign, along with other organisations, are also hoping to have the PHA area declared a heritage site.

Asked to respond to the possibility that the site could be declared a heritage site, Mr Van der Merwe said any submissions will be considered on its merits.

“Elements of the PHA may have heritage value but it is difficult to foresee with the information at present that the entire PHA could be considered a heritage site,” he said.