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Philippi Farmers Win ‘Precedent-Setting’ Development Battle

Activists for the Philippi Horticultural Association (PHA) are finally able to report some good news in the drawn-out court battle with the City of Cape Town over a proposed development on the land.

High court Judge Kate Savage ruled to suspend the development of the proposed Oakland City mixed-use development on the land that the PHA says is crucial to ensuring that water security is not compromised. 

The decade long case is truly a David and Goliath scenario, with a small group of farmers in the area taking on the City, government and developers in a bid to prevent any development potentially compromising food and water security in the province. 

The court had previously allowed for the rezoning of the area based on the fact that the area in question was not currently being used for food production and therefore a housing development wouldn’t put food security at risk.

The PHA farmers vehemently disagreed with this position.

The area is responsible for producing 200 000 tons of vegetable products each year – including 80% of the province’s carrots – and The PHA maintains that the land is the primary recharge zone for the Cape Flats aquifer and indirectly provides some 30 000 jobs.

Hydrological reports

Savage said that 2011’s decision to allow reining of the land, which sits above the Cape aquifer, needed to be reviewed on the grounds that potential damage to the environment and the effects of climate change needed to be taken into more urgent consideration. 

The decision follows the introduction of new hydrological reports into evidence that sought to demonstrate the impact that a housing development would have on the delicate environment, which campaigners maintain should be used solely for farming. 

Campaign leader Nazeer Sonday said the ruling was a victory for environmentalists.

“Our area is not a housing area, our area is a farming area and we want to keep it that way.”

“The judgment was precedent-setting because it tells our city and our municipality that it cannot make planning decisions without considering the climate anymore. It sends a clear message to developers and mining companies and land speculators that our area is not a housing area.”

What next? 

Despite the landmark judgment, campaigners for the PHA will be wary of Savage’s request for the hydrological reports provided to her to be reviewed. The reports suggest that the Cape aquifer is under immense strain, and is badly polluted.

The City of Cape Town will likely appeal the ruling, so this is certainly not the end of the road for campaigners hoping to conserve the land.

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Written by Mathew

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