The City of Cape Town, in partnership with Absa, hosted some 250 property developers from across the metropolitan area at a half-day workshop held in the Council Chamber of the Civic Centre on Friday, 1 June 2007. Under discussion was a balance between demands for development and economic growth on the one hand, and the need to protect Cape Town's unique natural beauty on the other hand.
Discussions focused on the difficulties around the planning and land use approval processes, legal requirement and environmental aspects. The City explained its legal and custodian role to ensure that the city's natural beauty is protected.
Guest speakers included Helen Zille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town; Cllr Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayoral Committee Member for Planning and Environment; Piet van Zyl, Executive Director for Strategy and Planning, and Jack Stroucken, General Manager - Absa Commercial Property Finance Residential Developments.
Councillor Marian Nieuwoudt, Mayoral Committee member for Planning and Environment, said: "Cape Town's natural beauty is its unique competitive edge. This is what attracts tourists, event participants, conference goers, business people, and investors. At the same time unemployment amongst our residents, the needs for and of a growing economy creates many demands for new developments. We have to find a balance."
"It does not help to portray the City as a bureaucratic obstacle to development, nor to label developers as money hungry with no concern for the environment. We have to move beyond such superficial exchanges. We have to understand that the development in Cape Town takes place against an entirely different backdrop compared to other cities. It is the beauty, biodiversity, mountains, oceans and vistas that make Cape Town an international icon. If we cross that sustainability threshold for short term financial and economic gains, we may compromise the one thing that makes us so sought after," said Cllr Nieuwoudt.
Mayor Helen Zille addressed the workshop saying that it is important to work with the developers, but that we should also acknowledge that our natural environment is an important asset that should be protected. "There should be an ongoing mechanism whereby you can inform us about the frustrations, concerns and problems you face with the City. We are here to help you all to facilitate an environment with fair and transparent rules that apply to everybody, a corruption free environment with as little bureaucracy as possible, but as much as is necessary to ensure that Cape Town remains a sustainable environment that can look to future generations and not just immediate profits and gains of individuals - although we respect your rights to make profits and re-invest them in the city."
A local developer, Willie van der Westhuizen, urged his fellow property developers to support the establishment of a Property Developer's Forum which can help to create a good code of conduct and build up a positive image of property developers. It was, however, agreed that people need time to consider their involvement in the process and that lessons should be learnt from similar initiatives which were implemented in the past. It is essential that the proposed forum remains effective over the long term.
The facilitated workshop session provided information to developers about the City processes, but also afforded developers an opportunity to provide input around how the system can be improved. One of the aspects proposed is that a Property Developers' Forum be established to ensure a continuous process of interaction between the City and Property Developers in Cape Town.
It was decided that a follow up workshop will be held on Friday 3 August 2007 to take the process forward. Any persons wishing to provide input into the process can forward their written comment to grace.stead_AT_mweb.co.za by 16 June 2007.
4 JUNE 2007
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
TEL: 021 400-2201 FAX: 021 957-0023
* CLLR MARIAN NIEUWOUDT, MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT
CELL: 084 224 0023
* GLENN DAVIS, ABSA, TEL: 021 915-5394 CELL: 082 578 1035
* WILLIE VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, KINE HOMES, CELL: 082 894 9792
* GRACE STEAD, WORKSHOP CO-ORDINATOR, E-MAIL: grace.stead_AT_mweb.co.za