Open letter to civic associations

Dear Civic Leaders,

The City of Cape Town is in the process of reviewing the system of delegations pertaining to its Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning (EESP) Portfolio. This forms part of an overall broader assessment of the City’s planning systems. These democratic processes are still unfolding and your input and views are critically important.

In light of the reporting on the matter that led to some confusion – together the City’s principle of communicating openly with the citizens of Cape Town – we would like to clarify a few matters relating to the System of Delegated Authority.

At the outset, and contrary to a number of media reports, the current delegations review remains as part of a proposal that has not yet been approved by Council or even considered by the Council. The review of the delegations system comes after engagement with internal structures, which has included consideration of sentiments expressed by various outside bodies, such as civic associations.

A previous report on this matter to the Mayoral Committee was not put to Council so as to allow for more discussion and refinement of the proposals. Over two months have passed and during this time significant changes have been made to the proposals.

This review of the system of delegations was necessary in terms of Section 59 (1) of the Municipal Systems Act, 32 of 2000 which necessitates that the system must “enable maximum administrative and operational efficiency in the affairs of Council”. Reviews of this nature are regular and required by law in order to ensure that Council processes ensure effective public input in planning matters, while ensuring that responsible and sustainable development can be achieved.

This review is in line with the City of Cape Town’s Integrated Development Plan, which commits the City to a planning regime that enhances and improves service delivery. At all times we seek to balance the prerequisite for local level engagement regarding planning decisions with the need for responsible development that helps create jobs.

The process of formal public participation is not under review or up for debate. The review mainly concerns the decision-making element relating to land use planning functions. Public participation processes will continue as is formally prescribed by law and Ward Councillors will continue to be informed of applications, as is the current practice. The City has always considered this a valuable and essential part of the process.

Despite reporting that suggested otherwise, neither the Executive Mayor nor any other single individual will be making all the decisions on planning matters. This was never an option and never will be. Furthermore, whatever structure of Council makes a planning decision, full auditable records are always kept to further enhance transparency.

Further discussion has led to the proposal that Subcouncils are to decide on all policy-compliant applications should any public objections be lodged when an objection has been received. When there is no objection from the community and a matter is policy-compliant, unnecessary delays will be avoided.

The City’s Spatial Planning, Environment and Land Use Management Committee will consider all larger applications that trigger environmental or traffic impact assessments. In addition, the law still allows for appeal to the relevant body in Council, regardless of which structure took the decision, thus allowing the opportunity for decisions to be reviewed where necessary. This means all decisions can be appealed, including that of the Mayoral Committee.

These checks and balances are fundamental to protecting the rights of all interested parties.

Notwithstanding the above at this stage of discussions, no final decision has been taken on the reviewed system and it is yet to be formally considered by Council. To date all that has taken place is debate and consideration of the merits of various models that will help to ensure administrative and operational efficiency, which is in line with democratic and consultative principles.

A primary driver of reviewing the delegations was to streamline accountability within the City by officials reporting to your elected representatives – not to vest power in any single person but rather to centre responsibility in the executive civil servant appointed to oversee the planning departments.

A single point of responsibility and accountability (not decision-making) of the previous functionally fragmented delegations to individual departments is now proposed – to ensure sustainable and integrated triple bottom-line (environmental, social and economic sustainability) decision-making.

Robust debate is a necessary part of reaching the best possible and most efficient decision-making system with the necessary transparency and accountability to the people of Cape Town. There is no need for any individual or grouping to feel that local input into planning decisions is being done away with, when in fact this will always be protected.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office should you have any further questions on this matter.

Your role as civil society is deeply valued, thus please use this and other open channels of communication to ensure Cape Town advances as a world class city for its residents.

Councillor Garreth Bloor


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