PHA gets a much needed helping hand

The campaign to keep the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) a no-build zone gain- ed momentum last week when Heritage Western Cape made their decision on the issue.

In a vote taken after an impact assessment earlier this month, seven to three Heritage Western Cape committee members chose against the approval of an application to the proposed rezoning of farm lands.

The application was made to the City of Cape Town by U-Vest, formerly Multi Spectrum Property Developers (MSPD).

Farmers who are either unable to maintain their land or stopped farming, have sold their land off to the highest bidding developer (“Aquifer a valuable water re- source”, Southern Mail February 17).

Although it can’t be confirmed how much land has been sold, U-Vest has applied to the City to rezone 95.6 hectares of land. This land, if the proposal is approved, will be used to build houses in the area.

Heritage Western Cape’s in- terim CEO Dr Errol Myburg said after the assessment, the committee voiced their concerns about the agricultural hub.

“We are of the opinion that the heritage significance of the PHA is under threat due to the continual erosion of farm lands. Development of this property will derogate from the significance of both the immediate site and overall significance of the PHA,” said Dr Myburg.

He added that the PHA has a “high degree” of socio and cultural historic significance, hence the decision that Heritage Western Cape will provisionally protect the PHA in terms of the National Heritage Resource Act.

Nazeer Sonday, PHA Food and Farming Campaign convener and spokesperson for the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association (SCEA), said the PHA, which produces 150 000 tons of vegetables a year, will be under severe threat if the application by U-Vest application is approved.

“This is a major victory in the on-going saga of the U-Vest development in the PHA.

“Sometime between December 2013 and October 2015 the City, unannounced and without public participation, moved the urban edge to allow U-Vest to pursue their landgrab in the south of the PHA,” said Mr Sonday.

“Why is the City doggedly pursuing this course of action (of the development) when knowing full well it will lead to job losses, the destruction of the farmlands and the aquifer while 11 000ha is available in the City for housing developments?”

An aquifer is an underground layer from which groundwater can be extracted and the farmers currently use it to irrigate crops.

When it rains the aquifer refills but if the land is rezoned, the aquifer will not be able to replenish, putting the resource and agricultural production at risk.

Mr Sonday commends Heritage Western Cape for their stance on the issue.

“The PHA Food and Farming campaign applauds Heritage Western Cape’s decision.

This is a decision taken in the interest of the PHA, its farmers and workers, and in the interest of the whole city.

“It also highlights the heritage value of the PHA and vindicates the PHA Food and Farming campaign’s position that, like Table Mountain, the Philippi Horticulture Area is worthy of unique heritage value due to its food security, water security and climate security value for the city, historically and for future generations,” said Mr Sonday.

Ann Creed, Uvest executive personal assistant to John Coetzee, Uvest’s director, said the company was not able to comment yet.

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, confirmed the application for 95.6 hectares of land as a subdivisional area overlay zone.

A subdivision area overlay zone application is a flexible zoning technique used by municipalities to layer an additional set of regulations on top of existing requirements, specifically relating to con- servation of land and natural resources.

Mr Van der Merwe said the application went through a public participation process and in- cluded advertisements in the Cape Times and Die Burger.

“In addition, 1 800 letters of notification to the local community as per the City’s notification policy and to the relevant national and provincial departments have been issued,” he said. The process in the response phase, meaning the applicant (U-Vest) now will be responding to objections that were received during the public participation process.

“The City’s Planning and Building Development Management Department will assess and respond to the comments that have been received. All factors will be taken into account,” he said.