The Western Cape High Court has reserved judgment on whether the authorities followed the correct procedures when moving Cape Town's ‘urban edge’ to allow development in Philippi, where urban farming takes place, notes a News24 report.

The Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign (PHAFC) has taken 11 government entities to court over the way the City of Cape Town and Western Cape provincial government paved the way for the ‘Oakland’ development in 2011.

Along with co-applicant Nazeer Sonday, the PHAFC is questioning the processes that led to the decision to ‘soften’ the city's urban edge and let a parcel of horticultural land be used for urban development.

Sonday said the case was precedent-setting for the PHA.

‘If we lose this court case and this development goes ahead, we will lose the whole area.’

He added that in addition to the urban farming activities in the PHA and the 6 000 jobs related to it, the area had been identified as a key aquifer protection zone and would not cope with development. Sonday said there would be flooding because storm water would have nowhere to go to, and the aquifer would not recharge.

Lawyers for the local and provincial governments said that no rules were broken when changing the urban edge to pave the way for the Oakland development. If there were any deviations, they were at officials' discretion and were permitted, the court heard.

Advocate Michael Janisch explained that Oakland ‘is not some fly by night commercial land speculator’, notes the News24 report. He said it was in curatorship, and a curator wanted to develop it because union investment funds and members' pensions were at stake.

‘Eighty percent is held by trade unions … and it is about to become 100%.’

Janisch added the dispute over the development had cost Oakland millions in consulting fees and property rates so far, saying it also had to pay R7.8m for security to prevent potential land invasions, and any crime on the unused land.

Advocate Murray Bridgeman for the PHAFC said the applicants do favour development, but just not on the aquifer, which they regard as unique agricultural land. He added there had been ‘little or no’ public participation before deciding to ‘soften the urban edge’ and the applicants did not have the money to challenge the issues when they first arose in 2011.

As part of his argument, Bridgeman proposed a ‘land swap’ as a ‘commercial solution’ so that investors get land elsewhere within the city, and their Cosatu pension fund investors do not suffer.

Advocate Peter Kantor, dealing with the environmental aspect of the case on behalf of the applicants, submitted that the decision in 2011 to soften the urban edge for Oakland was illegal because the relevant environmental assessment processes were not followed.

Full News24 report