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Council today, 25 April 2018, approved the City’s revised Municipal Spatial Development Framework (MSDF) which pursues a new spatial form for Cape Town. The MSDF provides policy certainty to private and public developers, and prioritises public expenditure on an Urban Inner Core. It further seeks to curb urban sprawl by focusing on inward growth and transit-oriented development accompanied by higher densities and land-use diversification.

The revised MSDF is intended to transform Cape Town’s spatial form by bringing people closer to jobs, and jobs closer to people.

It pursues a progressive vision for Cape Town, and is perhaps one of the most profound policy documents that this Council has had to consider, and subsequently approved, to date.

The revised MSDF can be described as the City’s antidote to the Group Areas Act used by the apartheid government to evict people of colour from well-located areas, such as the inner city and District Six, to far-flung locations on the outskirts of Cape Town.

The very purpose of the MSDF is to reverse the legacy of separate development by promoting integration, inclusivity, and by providing housing opportunities on well-located land where lower-income households will have better and easier access to economic opportunities.

Going forward, the revised MSDF is the City’s main policy document to guide and inform long-term planning and development in Cape Town. As from today, all new development decisions and approvals must comply with the revised MSDF and the local district plans to flow from this development framework.

The MSDF’s key objective is to pursue a new spatial form that will ensure that Cape Town becomes a city that is more equitable, liveable, sustainable, resilient and efficient. The MSDF also seeks to undo the separate development patterns put in place by the apartheid government which still shape Cape Town’s urban form to this day with disparate, largely segregated informal settlements and urban nodes.

It is imperative that we counter the creation of new low-income communities and other developments on the outskirts of Cape Town, while at the same time offering greater protection to conservation areas and agricultural assets such as the Philippi Horticultural Area.

The Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA)

The revised MSDF identifies the PHA as a unique area that requires a special focus within our spatial planning policies and frameworks.

In particular, we recognised that we needed to provide policy certainty around the future of the PHA. As such, the MSDF states clearly that the remainder of the PHA consisting of about 2 100 ha should be protected, given the role it plays in resilience and food security for Cape Town.

During the public consultation process on the then still proposed MSDF, the City received substantial comment on the future of the PHA. Following on from the input received, the City included policy guidance in the MSDF to protect the PHA as a highly valuable urban agricultural area, elevating its status to that of a protected natural environment and conservation area where no further development will be allowed.

Furthermore, the revised MSDF only allows for incremental development in the areas surrounding the PHA. This relates mainly to the southernmost area of the PHA where land use rights were already granted prior to the now revised and adopted MSDF. It is anticipated that the incremental development will provide a buffer to further encroachment. It is important to note that areas identified for incremental development are not a priority for the City going forward, meaning that the City will keep on servicing existing developments and maintaining existing infrastructure. New infrastructure would, however, need to be sequenced on the basis that the infrastructure requirement of the prioritised Urban Inner Core has been met.

Curbing urban sprawl

Going forward, urban development in Cape Town – be it formal or informal – must happen in such a way that it does not compromise the City’s ability to respond to fiscal constraints and environmental challenges.

Coupled with worsening traffic congestion, urban sprawl exacerbates the costs of renewing existing infrastructure and the provision of bulk infrastructure for roads, water, electricity and sanitation. Urban sprawl counters the delivery of affordable housing and undermines the sustainability of public transport.

Currently Cape Town’s lower-income households carry the burden of our city’s unsustainable urban form. The majority of these households live on the outskirts of Cape Town and spend nearly half of their monthly income on transport to get to work and school. They are living in dense, under-serviced, predominantly informal areas and travel long distances to sparsely populated, well-serviced areas of Cape Town where jobs and services are located.

A new development regime prioritises expenditure on the Urban Inner Core

The MSDF has been revised to pursue a new development regime that will free the city from the lingering effects of apartheid spatial planning in the long-term.

The new MSDF identifies areas suitable for urban development and catalytic interventions to achieve spatial transformation; areas where the impact of development must be managed; and areas not suited for urban development. It guides decision-making on the nature, form, scale and location of urban development, land use, the maintenance and development of infrastructure, and the protection of environmental resources.

Simply put, the new MSDF will guide public and private investment decisions that will affect Cape Town’s future spatial structure. For example, the MSDF is the principal policy tool when the City evaluates applications for new or enhanced land use rights, and the Municipal Planning Tribunal’s decisions on land development applications are also based on the MSDF.

Four spatial transformation areas

In future, the City will manage urban growth and development in accordance with the following four primary areas:

· an Urban Inner Core where public investment is prioritised, and where private sector investment is incentivised. Broadly speaking, the Urban Inner Core includes Cape Town’s existing industrial and commercial areas such as the areas adjacent to the N1, N2, N7, and M5 highways; along the R27 to the north and Main Road to the south; along major arterials linking the Metro-south East with Bellville and Kuils River; and the Cape Town International Airport.

· Incremental growth and consolidation areas where the City will keep on servicing existing developments and maintaining existing infrastructure. However, new developments in these areas will be subject to infrastructure capacity.

· Discouraged growth areas where the City will not make any investments, which may include protected areas where we have natural and agricultural assets; and areas that do not contribute to spatial transformation, inward growth, or transit-oriented development; and

· Critical natural asset areas that contribute significantly to Cape Town’s future resilience and/or are protected by legislation. These include protected natural environments and conservation areas.

The City will prioritise development and public expenditure within the Urban Inner Core. This area will be the focus of incentives and regulatory reform in support of spatial transformation. The purpose is to unlock development to create large-scale economic opportunities within close proximity to areas of social need.

Higher densities and inward growth

We are confident that we have ample developable land within the city.

Based on the current expansion of the urban footprint, our studies show that there is enough developable land within the Urban Inner Core and consolidation zones to satisfy the present rate of expansion of the City for at least a decade.

The MSDF will thus not constrain the availability of land for urban development; but by directing future investment and growth inwards rather that outwards, we will achieve a more efficient, integrated, and sustainable city.

It is a long-term priority to increase city-wide densities and to reduce the average cost of public transport. Thus, the emphasis on inward growth is vital as we need to achieve larger-scale efficiencies for the provision of bulk infrastructure and public transport.

This means we will target densification in specific locations and along priority transport corridors. At the same time, we have to deter developments on the periphery as the cost of maintaining infrastructure and the provision of services is unsustainable in these locations.

As such, the MSDF pursues:

· the regeneration of underperforming inner-city business nodes such as Salt River, Maitland, Goodwood, Parow, Athlone, and Bellville

· infill development of large underutilised land within the city

· in-situ residential intensification within well-located but traditionally low-density suburbs through second and third dwellings and cluster housing

In August 2016 Council adopted the Organisational Development and Transformation Plan which prioritises redress through targeted investment based on transit-oriented development. Transport networks are critical to Cape Town’s spatial transformation and the MSDF has been adapted to mirror this focus which must assist us in alleviating poverty and inequality, while at the same time improving the City’s efficiency and fiscal resilience.

It goes without saying that new housing opportunities must be developed on well-located land close to public transport, job opportunities, and social amenities.

Thus, the MSDF seeks to curb urban sprawl, support fiscal prudence, lower carbon emissions for a more efficient urban form, as well as clearly identify no-go areas for development in order to protect the City’s critical natural areas and assets, and to maximise the intensity and diversity of latent land use rights and vacant land.

The MSDF conveys the City’s investment priorities and rationale, and sets the scene for how we intend doing more with less by being smarter about where we invest public money.

View a map of the consolidated spatial plan concept:

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