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Cape developers still battle to get projects off the ground

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"The City of Cape Town must find a balance between urbanising Cape Town and meeting the demand for well-located housing."

Western Cape Property Development Forum, Deon van Zyl applauded the City of Cape Town for publishing its land use and building plan data highlights but said it was far from the reality for developers who battle red tape to get projects off the ground.

Van Zyl says it now takes double the time – an average of between four and eight years – to complete a development in Cape Town compared to a few years ago. 

The WCPDF said it understood the tensions facing the city but was “very concerned” with the published land use application data “since it appears to argue that the City has finalised 88% of submissions received in the 11 month period being reported on.”

Van Zyl was responding to the city’s press release in which it says the City of Cape Town had approved building plans to the value of R20,4 billion over a 11-month period, ending 31 May 2019. A further 8 760 land use applications have been finalised during this time.

According to the City it received 9 981 land use applications from 1 July 2018 to 31 May 2019, and finalised 8 760 applications over the same time period. “Thus, the City has finalised 88% of the submissions received when one compares the number of applications submitted with the number of applications finalised.”

Van Zyl said: “If this was indeed the case, the statement would confirm the average time period for the assessment of a land use application as 1.32 months, which is clearly not the reality.

The WCPDF says it has already challenged the Premier Elect, Alan Winde, to establish an Economic War Room with the purpose of formal engagement between government and the private sector, with the sole purpose of addressing bureaucratic and process bottlenecks. “We need to go further and to measure performance at a practical level: “Let’s not get distracted from getting the economy working by creating rules and regulations. Let’s simplify and make it easier to invest in the Western Cape.”  

The City of Cape Town said in its statement that it came against a lot of tension from all sides: “Some within the development and construction industry often claim that “red tape” and “City bureaucracy” are preventing, delaying, or hampering their industries, and subsequent investment in our local economy.

“On the other hand, some residents are opposed to new developments. They want their neighbourhoods to retain the character it had 20 years ago, despite the fact that more people are relocating to Cape Town and that the growing population must be catered for. 

“The tension between the different interests is further exacerbated by the legacy of apartheid spatial planning, and the dire need for affordable housing in well-located areas.”

The statement further said the City had to  find a balance between urbanising Cape Town and meeting the demand for well-located housing, while at the same time protecting the unique qualities and natural environment that make our city a sought after destination.

But WCDF says it is essential for the City’s data to be made available for interrogation “if these claims are to carry any weight in the development industry or indeed with the public and media at large.

“There can be no doubt that the land use and building plan assessment process is complex and subject to a plethora of legislation and red tape.  

“The Development Management Department is tasked to collate comments received from various departments as well as the public within strict statutory timeframes.  

“Yet, it has no jurisdiction over sister departments and other government entities that exceed allocated time frames for comment. Some of these sister departments are also guilty of often providing non-policy-substantiated comments, which contribute to long delays in the assessment of applications.”

Both public and private sector development projects play a major role in the economy and in the society they service, and “should be given due respect and allocated due assessment resources by government,” said Van Zyl. 

The WCPDF reiterated that not all development applications were entitled for approval, but “all are entitled to quick and transparent processing and decision making”.

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