Civic group threatens City with legal action

A development notice went up in Beaufort Road, Milnerton in June last year.

A Milnerton civic is threatening to take the City to court, accusing it of approving a development despite a public outcry.

According to Peter Walsh of the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association (MCRA), the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) and Planning Appeals Advisory Panel (PAAP) approved the rezoning for a development in Beaufort Street, Milnerton, without reviewing all the relevant documents.

The MPT appeared to be “dismissing objections from ratepayers and residents” on procedural grounds, he said.

MCRA vice chairman Bouwe van der Eems said the City’s public participation process was flawed and inappropriate developments were ruining Milnerton Central.

“The MCRA has on many occasions shown that we support appropriate densification by not objecting to a number of high-density developments, but we do object to inappropriate densification developments,” he said.

Two developments in Milnerton have drawn flak from residents and the MCRA.

In Beaufort Street, the plan is to rezone two Koeberg Road plots from Single Residential to General Residential sub zone and build a three-storey block of flats there – 44 flats and 55 parking bays (“Mixed views on development plans,” Tabletalk, June 6, 2018).

Earlier this year, there was an application at 2 Peddie Road in Milnerton, to rezone the property from a Single Residential to General Business. The application is to allow a boarding house with 24 double rooms, 23 toilets and 23 parking bays.

The MCRA said 250 Milnerton residents, including Ward 55 councillor Fabian Ah-Sing, had objected to the Beaufort Street development and 78 residents had objected to the Peddie Road development.

“Despite the avalanche of objections, the MPT approved the application (Beaufort Street application). The MPT did not even bother to answer the objections, but fabricated their own version of the objections, which they then rejected without evidence,” said Mr Walsh.

According to the MCRA, “vital information” was omitted from the information pack handed to the PAAP during the appeals phase which then “made it impossible for the PAAP to make well-informed decisions.”

He alleges that the omissions include the objector presentation, the councillor’s objection as well as letters from the objectors.

However, Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoud, said the objections from Mr Ah-Sing and 52 pages of objections from residents had been included in the information pack given to the PAAP.

She also rejected the MCRA’s accusation that the MPT had fabricated its own version of objections.

“The MPT members are bound by the conditions of service and code of conduct of the Municipal Planning By-Law and will at all times deal with valid objections in a fair, transparent, impartial, and objective manner. Tribunal members are a mixture of City of Cape Town officials and private individuals who have knowledge and experience in any of the disciplines of spatial planning, land use management, land development or the law related thereto,” she said.

MPT chairman Dave Daniels said the MCRA had a right to appeal if it felt there had been an error on a town-planning application or that the MPT had acted unfairly.

“The MPT members, before every meeting, sign a declaration that they have familiarised themselves fully with all the items on the agenda, and that includes letters of objection. Again, if the MCRA can prove that objections were not properly considered this would be a sound reason for an appeal,” he said.

Mr Van der Eems said there were several reasons why the City’s public participation process was flawed:

Applicants are required to submit applications electronically, but the City chooses a slow and unreliable method to communicate with residents, namely registered mail.

The process does not require applicants or the MPT to consider all objections. It allows applicants and the MPT to only refute a subjectively selected number of objections to create a false perception the objections were considered.

Residents are at a disadvantage when having to defend their case to a tribunal comprising planning professionals who are not independent and planning professionals of the applicant.

When residents want to escalate the matter to court, they must pay for this from their own pockets, whereas the City uses taxpayers’ money to fight residents.

“If court becomes the only option, the MCRA will look at how we can raise the funds to ensure that the City and its officials are held accountable to the laws governing the land and these processes,” said Mr Walsh.