Civic organisations have accused the City of Cape Town of having an overly cozy relationship with developers. File picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Civic organisations from across the city are becoming increasingly concerned at the cosy relationship between the City of Cape Town and private developers, saying inappropriate developments were being bulldozed through with objections routinely ignored.

Most don’t have the resources for lengthy court battles, but some, like the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) Food and Farming Campaign, have approached the public protector to investigate alleged illegal practices, while others, like the Far South Peninsula Community Forum, are organising petitions to highlight their objections to over-development.

Patrick Dowling, who heads up the Kommetjie Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association and the Far South Peninsula Community Forum, said a participatory democracy was meant to be one in which inputs from the people were taken seriously in the decision-making process.

“The experience of many civic bodies is that, instead, it is perfunctory with top-down executive outcomes the order of the day.”

Cape Town Greater Civic Alliance chairman Philip Bam said they were very concerned about the unbridled inappropriate development over Cape Town.

Bam said there were suspicions that certain developers were favoured.

The city’s proposed plans for Maiden’s Cove have also come under fire, with Chris Willemse, chairman of the Camps Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association, describing the sale of the nature reserve as “a breathtaking example of a land grab of scarce public open space for private development and private enrichment”.

In a report back at a public meeting last week, Willemse described the relationship between the city and developers as a “very sweet and mutually rewarding” one.

He warned it was also open to abuse. “And abused it is in Cape Town.”

Willemse said developers were now driving the process, with the ruling DA simply doing the industry’s bidding in return for massive party funding.

He added that many of the developments were not in the areas of most need and were mostly inappropriate.

Willemse said the Municipal Planning Tribunal, launched last year, which rules on planning applications in the city, was filled mostly with development-friendly members.

Johan van der Merwe, mayco member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, said the tribunal comprised some of the best independent professional planning consultants in Cape Town and experienced senior city officials, all of whom had been appointed after anopen, transparent and robust selection process.

He said various other measures were put in place to ensure good governance with appropriate checks and balances.

Commenting on the city’s new Municipal Planning bylaw, which came into operation last July, Nazeer Sonday, who heads up the PHA Food and Farming Campaign, said the bylaw had virtually no public participation requirement.

Sonday said they were not against development. “But development for the sake of development does not support a productive economy.”

Dowling added that development proposals over the past several years had routinely been approved in the face of consistent and voluble objections from many residents’ associations around Cape Town who were seeking to “defend the urban edge, to urge caution aroundinfrastructure stress, to reject the aggravation of gridlocked traffic congestion and to protect valued heritage sites and key environmental assets”.

He said at a meeting the Far South Peninsula Community Forum had with mayor Patricia de Lille and officials in 2013, they were told it wasn’t possible to put a moratorium on development approvals until infrastructure issues had been sorted out.

Dowling said the thousands of signatures collected during their “Gatvol” petition campaign showed the public was not happy with the way this understanding and the commitment to “work with the community on these complex issues” had been implemented.

The petition, which was circulated on social media, calls for an end to “greedy over-development”, citing traffic congestion and lack of schools.

Professor Edda Weimann, a resident of Newlands Village, has also raised concern over unchecked development, saying the character of the suburb had changed in recent years.

She said the suburb, with its tiny streets, couldn’t cope with the “exploding traffic” and insufficient infrastructure.

Cape Argus