Chapman’s Peak – The Truth

On the 16th February the Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, Anthea Serritslev, sent out an email to their internal mailing list communicating a response by Minister Carlisle to an article that appeared in the Cape Times about the Chapman’s Peak debacle. This email was subsequently sent by DA Councillors to the public.
The Residents’ Association of Hout Bay replies to the various issues listed by MEC Carlisle.

Statement: Statements by Minister Carlisle:
Reply: Replies by RAHB:

Statement: It is understandable that Hout Bay and Noordhoek residents should be aggrieved by the ‘Chappies’ toll road and all the problems that have accompanied it. The whole process leading to the barring down of the upper slopes and finally to the toll road was, in my view, a disastrous technical decision, and I said so repeatedly whilst I was in opposition. The contract that brought the toll into being was extremely prejudicial to the Province, the picnickers, the hikers, the tourists and those who use it on their way to and from work.

Thus, when I became the MEC, I inherited a binding contract that had been conceived in sin or insanity, there is no other possibility. The pass was more often closed than not. The concessionaire not only had the power to close the pass at will, he was also liberally paid by the Province even whilst the pass was closed. All of this was courtesy of previous ANC governments

Reply: It would have been cheaper financially and most certainly environmentally to have cancelled the contract. What level of legal opinion was taken in that regard? Who looked at the constitutionality of the agreement? Who investigated the level of solvency of Entilini which, under certain conditions, could have led to cancellation of the ‘binding’ contract to which you refer?

Statement: I was determined to renegotiate the contract to eliminate its worst aspects. With the aid of the new majority interest in Entilini and with the assistance of National Treasury, we were able to amend the contract to one that is significantly more beneficial to the users; the taxpayer and the Province. The Province will get back the R60m odd it has coughed up for so called “designated” events and we now decide on whether the pass closes or not.

The Province will, over time, not only recover all present and future costs including its contribution to the toll plaza, it will also benefit by a share of profits from the contract.

Reply: It should be made known that if the Province makes the decision to keep the road open it takes on the liability for any claims that may arise at that time. The excuse given for tolling the road in the first place was so that Province could reduce its liability for claims. It has now decided to expose itself to the very same risk. By implication, therefore, if Province is prepared to take the risk then the tolling should be unnecessary.

The new agreement provides that the Province will give Entilini R25m in cash toward the cost of the Toll plaza and that Entilini’s contribution to the balance of the cost of the toll plaza will be made up of R 11,6 m they have under spent on construction work done to date and R13,0m they owe to the Province! This seems like the Province is definitely giving Entilini R38m, not only R25m, and Entilini is thus effectively receiving R49,6m. In addition, Province is also giving them the land on which the toll plaza and office are planned to be built. All that added together, is a lot more than the R25m reported by the Province. So, the Office Block and Toll Plaza is effectively being fully paid for by the Province. This is in direct conflict with the Toll Roads Act which says that whatever building the Concessionaire requires must built at their own cost.

There is no guarantee that the Province is going to get any money back not only because that expectation is based on uncertain projections of traffic volumes and therefore revenue but because the very sustainability of Entilini must be called into question. Hector Elliot, Mr. Carlisle’s Head of Ministry has stated that the maintenance costs alone of Chapman’s Peak Drive are R100m per annum. If the number of paying vehicles reasonably expected by Entilini to traverse the Drive is around 900 000 and the average tariff is say, R40/vehicle the total revenue will be R36m p.a. – a deficit of R64m before salaries, other operating costs and repayment of their existing loans of, reportedly R150m, over the concession period. This could conceivably amount to another R20m p.a. giving a total deficit of R84m. Under such circumstances the obvious question that must be asked is how can it be said that Province will get its money back over time.

Statement: A 12 year project to remove alien vegetation and replant fynbos on the high peaks (which should have been done years ago) is now being implemented by SANPARKS.
Reply: That is their obligation, that is what the law says they must do and doing so has nothing whatsoever to do with Chapman’s Peak and the toll road.

Statement: Motorists will be aware that except for a few short weather events, the pass has not been closed since the agreement was signed.

We have thus sought to mitigate a very bad situation, and to the greatest degree, this has been achieved.

Reply: It is difficult to understand the immediate linkage between signing the agreement and the reduction in the number of closures. Unless, of course, it is implied that prior to the new agreement the Concessionaire was closing the road unnecessarily in order to create a ’Designated Event’ and its associated compensation.

Statement: Therefore it was surprising to be confronted by a series of Cape Times articles and an editorial claiming to have unearthed “new” truths about “Chappies” most of which were seriously inaccurate.
Reply: It would be useful to know which of the so called new truths are seriously inaccurate.

Statement: The current furore around ?Chappies? and the toll plaza is even more remarkable in that nothing is being done that was not known about before, and that was not subject to the most extensive public participation ever visited on any Provincial project.
Reply: It would be useful to know where the information comes from that this Provincial project was subjected to the most extensive public participation. That aside, a comparison of what was finally approved, in the non appealable Record of Decision, to what is now planned and, more importantly, to what the active participants in the public participation did not want is revealing. For example, specialists employed by the Province, SANParks and others were opposed to the size of the proposed structures, in particular the canopies. Toll plazas were not only opposed across the board but optional tolling methods were proposed that would reduce the environmental impact of what was being planned.

There was opposition to two plazas; there was no discussion or proposal to build in Table Mountain National Park; there was a well supported objection to the size of the toll plazas on the grounds of over ambitious traffic projections. Without exception those objections were overruled and it is revealing that they are without exception being raised again today. To say that there was a major public participation process and the public have been heard and therefore should accept what was approved is to deny them their rights.

Statement: These revelations based themselves to a disappointing degree on hearsay; exaggerations and inaccuracies.
Let me reassure your readers on three points:-

1. The Times headline:- “The toll road company is building a luxury office block costing R54m on the drive.”

The clear impression conveyed – and certainly understood by the public – is of a great office rearing up the side of the mountain. This is incorrect.

Reply: It is difficult to understand how it is possible to judge what the public understand. All images and drawings and facts of the matter have been released by the Province and the public have based their view on that information and on the as yet uncontested fact that what is proposed is unnecessarily large, if at all necessary. If there has been any misleading information much has come from the Province. For example they compare the proposal to the existing temporary facility and point to the bad working conditions as justification for the proposed office block. Yet never has there been an expectation that the existing facilities should not be upgraded. The opposition is about scale and necessity.

Statement: The Cape Times describes the Plaza as luxurious and massive. This also is incorrect. Contrary to the Times report, there will only be 20 people working on the tolls and in the office at any given time ? and not 60. The alleged “office block” is a two story building, each floor of 200SM in extent.
Reply: Steven Otter, MEC Carlisle’s spokesman has been quoted as saying, when discussing the proposed office block, that the staff “of about 60” were required to operate on a 24/7 basis and that there were inadequate facilities to properly cater for this number of people. If he was misquoted or misinformed as 20 is the actual figure, then an appropriately sized building becomes totally inappropriate because a building of 400m² to accommodate fewer than 20people (some of the 20 are in the booths and permanently outside of the building) is, by any measure, excessive. In any event the measures that matter are those one sees and the effect they have on the environment and those include height, footprint and the land on which it stands which in this case are, respectively, two stories, just under 500m² and 2100m² of Table Mountain National Park.

Statement: It is designed not to be intrusive, and, by way of example it cannot be seen from Hout Bay Harbour. The cost of the office building and the toll booths is about R13m.
This includes strongrooms and a waste water plant.
Reply: It is not a waste water plant. It is a sewerage treatment plant.

The view from elsewhere, particularly from other places on Chapmans’s peak have not been taken into account. The office building upstairs also includes a display area, kitchen, two cloak rooms, store room general managers office, personal assistant’s office and concession manager’s office that open through sliding doors into a large meeting room which, in turn, opens onto a covered terrace, a service area. Other sliding doors open onto a second terrace covered by a pergola overlooking a landscaped roof terrace. Down stairs includes a reception area and visitor’s waiting area, two toilet areas, IT technician workshop, archive/storage room, cash room, plaza managers office,internal auditor’s office,H R manager’s office, a secretary and SHE officer’s officer’s office, staff room, cash collection garage, a/c room, U.P.S. room, staff w,c. and a civil foreman’s office

Is important to bear in mind that this office block is to serve the needs of a business processing transactions of a volume equivalent to those of a small parking garage.

Statement: Other costs include the roadways (R10m); landscaping (R1m); electronic equipment (R6m); Electricity and lighting (R2.5M) It will have offices; control rooms and a meeting room. The total cost is capped at R54m, but is likely to be less
Other costs include the roadways (R10m); landscaping (R1m); electronic equipment (R6m); Electricity and lighting (R2.5M) It will have offices; control rooms and a meeting room. The total cost is capped at R54m, but is likely to be less
The Provinces share of the cost will be recovered in full over time.
Reply: This does not seem likely, see above.

Statement: The attractive and environmentally appropriate new toll plaza will be built into the unsightly quarry on the mountain, and will mitigate what is the ugliest feature on the mountain.
Reply: One cannot mitigate a disturbed natural landscape by putting up buildings.
Reinstatement of disturbed areas of National parks has to be done by SANParks.

Statement: Construction is not happening at the expense of pristine fynbos, or any other protected fauna.
Reply: That is not true. A portion of the 2100 m² of land designated for the office building is affected.

Statement: The Times headline:-?Upper story of block designed for party, say residents.?

This is also not true. The Times gives their source as a Mr Swimmer of the Hout Bay Residents Association. At a meeting of his Association to which he invited me last year, and at which 3 of his members were present, he made a similar allegation. When I asked for his source, he told me that somebody had told him.

Reply: It was not an allegation it was simply repeating what some people have been heard to say. Since it is not true it would be appropriate that the concession agreement be amended to specifically prohibit such use and any use not directly connected with the operation of the tolling in accordance with the requirement of the environmental authorization (ROD).

Statement: 3.?Free day pass to Chappies to be scrapped?)

Whilst there is, and always has been, a provision in the contract for all vehicles passing through the toll gates to be charged, there has been an informal agreement that bona fide picnickers and hikers would not be charged on the Hout Bay side until the completion of the plaza.

Reply: That is a contractual fact yet Mr. Carlisle has repeatedly said that the Day Pass system will be retained. That is confusing and the position must be resolved or the protesting on that issue will continue.

Statement: In 2008 the then ANC Minister agreed in terms of the Record of Decision to discontinue the day pass system. This provision has not been implemented.
Reply: Reference in the Record of Decision to the day pass system cannot be found.

Statement: Clauses 16.1 to 16.4 of the contract govern the future of day passes. They will continue to be issued unhindered for at least the next year.
Reply: In November 2003 free access was given yet in 2008 the Province and the concessionaire agree to take it away. In Clauses 16.1 to 16.4 of the contract it states that the system will terminate no later than 30 June 2011. The Province has contracted to remove the right without any known call for public comment.

Statement: The new plaza is sited over a kilometre higher up the mountain, and many picnic sites and hiking routes will fall outside of the toll section. I am not in favour of the removal of day passes, which can only be implemented with my concurrence.
Reply: Only two small, viewless, picnic sites are affected, both on the mountain side of the road.

Statement: Informal negotiations have started with the Toll Company to find a solution in the best interests of all stakeholders, and particularly the people of Cape Town, to whom the mountains belong.
Reply: It would be useful to know what these negotiations are about especially since they affect all stake holders.

Statement: Whilst most of the plaza ? some 75% – will be built on Provincial land, a small piece of Table Mountain Park (nearly all of which is a quarry) will also be used.
Reply: The whole of the office block is in the National Park on 2100m²

Statement: The legality of the approval to construct on the portion of SANPARKS land is currently being challenged, and is best left to the courts.
However, the comparison with the small piece of land excised for the Hospital Bend/N2 upgrade is entirely fallacious. That land was owned by The Cecil John Rhodes Estate, which is governed by its own and entirely different Act of Parliament.
Reply: The land concerned in the Hospital Bend upgrade amounted to 750m² and involved both what is now TMNP and Rhodes Estate land. Both cases require National Assembly ratification of de proclamation. Ultimately the land was not de proclaimed, the road was re aligned.

Statement: Very few projects have been subjected to the extent and intensity of public participation which scrutinised the toll plaza.
Reply: Addressed above.

Statement: Commencing 2003, the environmental impact assessment triggered widespread participation, in which Mr Swimmer and his HBRA were fully involved.

The National Minister of the Environment enforced a second round of public participation in 2005, in which Mr Swimmer and his HBRA were again fully involved.

Finally, there was an appeal process which allowed for further input from interested and affected parties.

Reply: Addressed above.

Statement: At the time, The Cape Times reported on all three of these processes. Interestingly, the HBRA who now express such outrage about the plaza, did not object the Record of Decision in its favour in 2005.
Reply: The RAHB bears no knowledge of a Record of Decision in its favour.

Statement: Despite this, your editorial today repeats most of the inaccuracies of its earlier articles, and goes on to say ?there was no public announcement about the move.
Reply: Perhaps the Cape Times should be given an opportunity to respond to this

Statement: Outrage is a very overworked word in journalistic terms, so let me confine myself to expressing disappointment that the Cape Times should make such an obviously inaccurate statement.
Reply: Ditto.

Statement: Like most Capetonians I would never have wanted a Chappies toll; catchnets and underpasses. However, once the upper cliffs were tampered with and after the uncontrolled alien flora was burnt off some 10 years ago, the pass became significantly more dangerous. This necessitated the current protective measures.

This was the legacy of past administrations. There is now no possibility that the huge costs of maintaining the safety of the pass can be met without tolling.

Chappies is, by a wide margin, the most expensive road in the Province.

Reply: The question arises as to what happens if and when the concessionaire goes into liquidation?

Statement: Despite all the measure we have introduced, two thirds of the pass rests on soft and eroding Cape sandstone, which makes ?Chappies? the most vulnerable of our Provincial treasures.
Setting aside fairy stories about luxury and parties, the vexed issue is whether the office area of the plaza could have been sited elsewhere. From an efficiency point of view this is undesirable. Toll offices are usually positioned close to a major toll gate, as at Huguenot. The plaza and gates are designed for minimal visual impact, and also to obscure the quarry.
Reply: That is, by any standards, weak justification for the offices to be on the pass

Statement: More importantly, the plaza is the product of a very detailed Record of Decision, and subject to a complex private/public partnership contract. To undo it now exposes the risk of unravelling everything that has been achieved and regressing to the bad old days of conflict between the partners; more frequent closure of the pass and significant new expense to the taxpayer.
Reply: We fail to see the reason why dispensing with the unnecessarily large toll plaza need result in more expense for the taxpayer and more frequent closures. We also see no reason why conflict between partners should be a deterrent in taking action to avoid conflict with the public.

Statement: This administration has met its promise of reopening Chappies and renegotiating a more favourable contract, saving the taxpayer over R84m in the process.
Reply: Readers might ask to see the makeup of this amount and to relate it to the actual amount Province has contracted to give Entilini to build the toll plaza and the amount it is to pay Entilini in the event of an Interdict interrupting construction.

Statement: The Cape Times ambush of yesterday and today reminded me that few good deeds go unpunished.
Reply: None

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