The strongly worded letter to the press (below) from the Far South Peninsula Community Forum does not come close to representing the outrage felt by civic and environmental organisations in the South Peninsula who have opposed undesirable development on Dassenberg for well over 10 years.
The City of Cape Town is officially opposed to the development, but recently withdrew its Court Action against Province’s controversial approval of the development . The decision came as a surprise and is a big disappointment to local community organisations as you will see from the letter below. Reasons for the withdrawal of the court action have not been forthcoming, and have seriously undermined confidence in the ability of the City to ensure a sustainable growth path for the South Peninsula.
Dassenberg letter from the FSCPF 14 April 2011
It is with a deep sense of frustration and despondency that we write this. Why did we even think that the executive Mayor and Mayco would do their job and defend the City’s Plans and Policies? What were we expecting from the Western Cape Provincial Government when the DA ousted the ANC in the April 2009 election? We certainly did not expect them to support the thoroughly unacceptable decisions made by MEC Pierre Uys who issued a controversial environmental authorization and rezoned Dassenberg for residential development. He did this in spite of the fact that Dassenberg had been included in the proclaimed Buffer Zone of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site. Our final comments on the EIA were submitted on 18 March 2009 and after less than a month MEC Uys made his decisions …… just 5 days before the election, which they knew they were going to lose! Moreover, because he bypassed the normal processes and took the decisions himself, the right of appeal in both processes was denied.
In our opinion, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was flawed. The report informed the decision makers that it was not possible to stop inappropriate, un-needed and undesirable development. Why? Because the Peninsula Urban Structure Plan designated the area for urban development. It was accordingly reasoned that all other forward planning initiatives were inconsistent with the Peninsula Urban Structure Plan which was the only approved plan. However
…” all more recent policy planning frameworks do not indicate the Dassenberg area for urban development. This was informed by considerations of slope, visual impact, ecological sensitivity, urban sprawl, minimizing further erosion of the integrity of the Peninsula MountainChain, maximizing public good and promoting and enhancing tourism (and its potential) as a key and expanding economic factor” ( letter to Province dated 7 April 2009, from the Executive Director, Strategy and Planning of the City of Cape Town).
At the time the City’s Draft Spatial Development Framework (SDF) was being advertised for comment. Protection of the urban edge, densification in the built environment and rationalisation of service delivery underpin the policies in the SDF. If the Urban Edge could not be defended in the case of Dassenberg, how will it be defended elsewhere in the City? Unless challenged, development of Dassenberg would severely undermine the SDF. Civil Society might then be forced to withdraw support for the SDF. Overturning this decision would accordingly establish an absolutely vital legal precedent.
The City of Cape Town did indeed ask the High court to review the decisions taken by MEC Uys. We thought that the City, like ourselves, firmly believed that the Provincial Administration did not properly consider (a) the Guidelines contained in the Peninsula Urban Structure Plan; (b) the implication of approving the rezoning themselves (the application was not submitted to the Municipality for assessment); (c) the implication of the Municipality refusing the subdivision; (d) the implication of unenforceable mitigation measures attached to the EIR approval; and (e) the implication of a new land unit being created in the CPPNE and Buffer Zone of the Cape Floristic Region if the subdivision were to be approved.
The Municipality did in fact refuse the subdivision. The Applicant appealed the decision and interested and affected parties submitted comments on this appeal in November 2010. The Far South Peninsula Community Forum appointed an advocate to provide a legal opinion which was submitted as their comment. This legal opinion was made available to the City and provided numerous points to justifying review. The City has however withdrawn their case. Their legal opinion said they would not win it. We believe the City owes the public an explanation. Why would the case not be won?
We would have taken the court action ourselves. If only we had known that our Council is incapable of defending their own Spatial Development Framework and all the other planning policies upon which they spend a great deal of our money!
If Dassenberg is developed it will stand as a monument to urban sprawl and toothless officialdom!
Signed by: Simon Liell-Cock Acting Chairman (FSPCF)