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The Planning and Environment Section of the George Municipality’s Directorate for Human Settlements, Planning and Development and Property Management recently hosted the George Environmental Management Stakeholders Forum on a virtual platform to discuss topical issues in the environmental sector that affects George. This engagement was the first of what the Directorate intends to host as bi-annual engagements aimed at sharing knowledge, creating awareness, and keeping participants abreast of planned projects, investigations and challenges relevant to the environmental sector.

According to Delia Power, Deputy Director for Planning and Environment in the George Municipality the stakeholders’ forum which took place on the 27th of March 2023 was well attended by a spectrum of environmentalists and related stakeholders from George and surrounds. Participants were informed of the quarterly municipal outreach engagements held between the Municipality and the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) whose mandate is to “enable a resilient, sustainable, quality and inclusive living environment for all”. The Municipality thanks DEA&DP for their attendance and participation in this engagement, wherein a summary of its policies, interventions, and projects that impacts the George Municipal Area was shared.

The George Municipal Planning and Development team led a presentation on the amended Municipal Spatial Development Framework, a core component of the Integrated Development Plan. Delia says that City’s MSDF is to Develop George as a resilient, regional development anchor of excellence for prosperity, inclusive and smart growth. It furthermore comprises six key themes which are: Infrastructure, Economic Growth, Growth Management, Integrated Housing, Natural assets & resilience, and Heritage.

The highlights of the discussion during the forum meeting focussed on the mechanism applied to ensure environmental sustainability in everyday planning and development practices, a task which becomes increasingly difficult as our community and economy grow. With many newcomers to our area, it is essential that environmental awareness is raised and strategies to protect natural resources and improve resilience are embedded in our legislation. To this end, the link between the MSDF and Zoning Scheme By-Law was explained.

The Municipality shared information on operating instruments and programmes being applied and undertaken in our day-to-day operations and included:
• An overview of the OSCA/E Portal which was launched in 2022 to promote ease of doing business and enable applicants to track their applications. Environmental practitioners were advised that all applications are now being processed via this portal and are encouraged to report any challenges experienced as the system is constantly being improved to ensure its efficiency.
• An overview of new environmental layers added to the Municipal Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which may be accessed under the Public Viewer tab of the municipal GIS portal. Participants were made aware that these resources are applied by decision-makers over the course of deciding on new applications.
• The Directorate for Community Services outlined the municipality’s alien clearing programme and the principles related to the Adopt-a-spot Policy and shared information relating to coastal management practices.
• Participants were informed of efforts to conserve threatened vegetation through approved offsets, management of conservation areas and proposed development of environmental management plans for riverine areas.

Progress relating to the development of Protected Area Management Plans for the Katriver, Van Kervel and Fort Koppie local conservation areas was shared by the service provider and the initiative was well received by CapeNature. The next engagement will be held in the next semester where more participants will be added to the list of speakers and continued updates will be provided on the progress of projects and investigations undertaken by the respective sector departments of the municipality. The municipality thanks each of the participants for their contribution to the meeting and looks forward to forging sound partnerships with practitioners and stakeholders in the environmental sector.