140718. Cape Town. A section of land up for development in Noordhoek near Chapmans Peak drive. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape argus

Cape Town - The city council has given the green light for a 100-seater restaurant to be built at the start of Chapman’s Peak Drive in Noordhoek - despite strong opposition from the community which lodged 81 objections against it.

The council also went against the recommendation of its own spatial planning, environment and land use management committee (Spelum) that the application be refused. The application was also not supported by the city’s subcouncil.

Sources said there was apparently a split decision at a DA caucus meeting on Tuesday about whether to approve the rezoning application to allow the restaurant to be built. Yesterday mayor Patricia de Lille said the application had been unanimously approved in council on Wednesday, adding: “No single person voted against it.”

The decision has been met with anger by civic groups, who slammed the city’s “top-down decision-making” and the way it ignored the community’s objections.

Two of the 81 objections had been from the Noordhoek Conservancy and the Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG) with about 480 members altogether.

Patrick Dowling, chairman of the Far South Peninsula Community Forum, said this was another example of the trend of authorities dismissing public opinion.

“Ten or 15 years ago this may have been different, but now there is very much top-down decision-making. We hoped democracy would have evolved to allow civil society to become a more respected and involved party in decision-making, which is good governance, but that has not happened,” Dowling said.

Their main objections were that the proposal did not comply with the city’s policy framework, and would be a deviation from the city’s Southern District Plan of 2012.

It also was an example of “commercial creep” into a rural area. The district plan states that future urban development in the areas must be in local nodes, and the boundaries of these nodes be defined by existing business zonings.

The desirability of the restaurant had not been demonstrated.

UCT economics professor Anthony Black has said the proposed restaurant would not be a job creator, and would downgrade the tourism assets of the south peninsula.

Rory Sales, secretary of NEAG, said on Wednesday it “beggared belief” that the council had approved the proposal against such opposition.

“Why would the mayor personally push for this? Because she has pushed. When there is such a contentious issues, she must put a very good reason forward as to why she believes this is in the public good. And not just some catch-all phrase like ‘job creation’.”

Asked to comment, De Lille’s spokeswoman, Zara Nicholson, said: “This was not pushed by the mayor. It was unanimously approved by mayco and full council. No single person voted against it. The mayoral committee followed due process and considered the application on its merits. This is part of our broader commitment to driving responsible economic development.”

Cape Times