City agreeing to sell Princess Vlei was a ‘mistake’, says MEC

Peter Luhanga

The City made a mistake in approving the sale of land at Princess Vlei ten years ago, said Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell late last week.

Bredell was commenting on the long running opposition by residents and environmental activists against the proposed construction of a mall on the shores of Princess Vlei, a green space near Grassy Park which residents use for fishing, picnicking and bird-watching.

In 1998 Insight Property developers put in an unsolicited bid to buy land there in order to build a shopping centre.

In 2002 the City approved the sale of the land subject to a public participation process, rezoning, an EIA and purchase price agreement.

But it appears the City administration has changed its mind over the wisdom of selling the land as in April this year Bredell upheld the developer’s land use rights after they lapsed and an extension was refused by the City.

Bredell indicated the only way out for the City now was to either swap the land at Princess Vlei, which it still owned, with the company Insight Developers, or buy them out.
However, the City could be spared such an expensive deal if documents uncovered by the Princess Vlei Forum opposing the development, stand up in court.

Last week the PVF filed evidence with the NPA and Public Protector that they believe shows irregularities surrounding the company that conducted the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), and that the developer, Insight Development (Cape) deregistered in 2010 due to failure to submit annual reports.

PVF co-ordinator Kelvin Cochraine said he had submitted evidence that some of the directors of the company that conducted the EIA were also directors of Insight Development (Cape).

Furthemore, he said, Insight Development (Cape) de-registered on July 16, 2010 and a new company, Insight Developers (Palmyra Road) was created.
An official who checked in the case files at the Public Protector confirmed the PVF’s case had been assigned to an investigative officer.
Cochraine thus questioned the legality of Bredell’s decision to extend the land use rights in April as the company to whom the land use rights were awarded no longer existed.
“They can’t transfer the deal from one company to the next. It’s illegal. There need to be a new application. The whole process needs to be stopped. The City and province need to bring charges against the perpetrators,” said Cochraine.
Bredell said his department had read the PVF’s claims and was looking into the evidence.

“That’s where it’s lying at this stage.”
Regarding alleged irregularities regarding the EIA, he said his department would await the
Public Protector findings.
City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environment and Spatial Planning Belinda Walker said the City did not have a formal opinion of swapping land with the developer or buying them out.

“There are a number of options. Minister (Anton) Bredell has expressed his opinion, the City does not have a formal opinion on that yet,” she said. She also said the City would also await the Public Protector’s findings.

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