De Lille denies claims Cape Town is an 'inconsiderate city'

2017-02-22 08:01
An architect’s impression of the controversial 60m high apartment and retail building on the edge of Bo-Kaap (in red) which could set a precedent for other massive buildings to follow (in grey). Image courtesy of Rick Brown & Associates

An architect’s impression of the controversial 60m high apartment and retail building on the edge of Bo-Kaap (in red) which could set a precedent for other massive buildings to follow (in grey). Image courtesy of Rick Brown & Associates

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Cape Town – Cape Town residents have accused Mayor Patricia de Lille of taking a "development at all costs" approach with little regard for public sentiment and the city’s own policies, GroundUp reported on Tuesday.

She dismissed most of their accusations as "lies", adding, "bring on the evidence". In an emailed response to questions, she uses this phrase, or variations of it, six times in response to eight questions.

On February 15, the Development Action Group (DAG), held a meeting to discuss the matter. The organisation’s Ryan Fester had interviewed communities about 18 controversial development proposals.

These ranged from the Cape Flats to the Atlantic Seaboard and included the Two Rivers Urban Park, the R1bn retail and housing development in Bo-Kaap, and housing development proposals in the Philippi Horticultural Area.

Fester told the meeting that a common theme had emerged of "an inconsiderate city".

"Inconsiderate of heritage, inconsiderate of the environment, inconsiderate of people’s opinions. It was a case of development at all costs," Fester said.

It was claimed at the meeting that De Lille had instructed city officials not to raise objections to development applications submitted to the city.

De Lille dismissed this claim: "This is a lie. Bring the evidence."

Several people at the meeting criticised her for "riding roughshod" over public opposition to controversial developments. They said the public participation process had become simply a "tick-box" exercise with no real concern for people, culture, the environment or heritage.

De Lille responded in her email: "This is untrue. Bring in the evidence."

Biased process

Bruce Smith, vice-chair of the Kommetjie Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (KRRA) said at the meeting that the principles contained in city council policies, such as the spatial development framework and the urban edge policy, often appeared to be "of no consequence" when the city approved a development application.

"You see the huge quantity of specialist reports that accompany an application. They are probably not even read. The city planners’ recommendations are usually less than a page. You see 70 to 100 objections from small communities. It doesn’t seem to matter," Smith said.

Osman Shaboodien, chair of the Bo-Kaap Civic Association, was unable to attend the meeting as he was in discussion with attorneys about the possibility of taking the city to court.

This related to its approval of the controversial R1bn apartment and retail building to which 1 000 people objected as being inappropriate for the Bo-Kaap. It was approved and the subsequent appeal by residents was turned down.

Speaking before the meeting, Shaboodien said they believed the process was biased.

"How can a mayor who says, 'We encourage development' then be the judge over an appeal to a development she is encouraging?"

He believed the municipal planning tribunal, which made decisions on development applications, was biased. People who had worked for developers were on the tribunal.

Asked for comment, De Lille said: "This is a lie, bring the evidence". She said the municipal planning tribunal was an independent body established according to the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2013.

Patrick Dowling, chair of the KRRA, believes the city council had gone too far in institutionalising – informally – a development-at-all-costs attitude.

Due diligence

Dowling said De Lille had given an undertaking that there would be no more development in the peninsula’s far south until new infrastructure had been put in place, particularly to deal with increased traffic.

Since then, the city had approved development applications for almost 400 new housing units in the Kommetjie area. There are 850 existing houses in Kommetjie.

"So collectively, the developments are adding half a village to Kommetjie. That is not organic growth. The city has all these processes and policies, but they bend the rules at will. It is time for civil society to say, 'enough'," Dowling said.

Asked to comment on the reversal of her undertaking, De Lille said the city’s planning department undertook due diligence on every application.

Claims were made at the meeting that De Lille, who makes the final decision on appeals from parties who object to development approvals, overrode important technical information contained in appeals’ submissions when arriving at her decision.

"Lies. Bring the evidence," was De Lille’s response.

Dowling said while the city had good policies, many people questioned how much attention it paid to them when considering development applications.

"It seems to be a case of, 'This is the real world and you can take us to court if you don’t like it'. And if poorer groups can’t raise the money, it’s tough."

Read more on:    patricia de lille  |  cape town  |  housing  |  service delivery  |  local government

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