The public take Chapman’s Peak issue back to court

Cape Times : April 23, 2012
Melanie Gosling
Environment Writer


HOUT Bay residents have gone to court for the second time in an attempt to halt the building of the controversial R54-million luxury office on Chapman’s Peak Drive.

The Residents’ Association of Hout Bay and the Habitat Council have lodged an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court asking the court to stop toll company Entilini from continuing with construction of the two-storey office on the scenic drive.

They argue that the office, part of the toll plaza under construction, is on SANParks land and is therefore part of the Table Mountain National Park.

If the court grants them the order, the residents intend returning to court to establish whether construction of the office on national parks land is lawful. They have also asked the court to interdict Premier Helen Zille, Transport MEC Robin Carlilse and SANParks from allowing any construction on the site until the land on which the office is to be built has been deproclaimed, thus cutting it out of the park, and the title deed restrictions on the land have been removed, among other things.

The land in question, formerly the farm Helsdingen owned by the Labia family, was expropriated and sold to SANParks on condition it was used solely for SANParks purposes, in accordance with the National Parks Act, which says that all commercial activity in a park must serve the purposes of conservation.

Hout Bay resident Keith Fawcett said in his founding affidavit that the proposed building was a commercial office, designed “and intended to function as a luxury office building”. He said it had limited toll functions, and included a boardroom that took “full advantage of the magnificent views overlooking the sea”, a large meeting room opening on to roof terraces and a counter that appeared to function as a bar. He said the building “radically exceeds” what was approved in 2008 by the Department of Environment Affairs, which said the toll buildings must be limited to “only what is needed”.

Fawcett takes issue with the provincial government’s view that a management agreement between SANParks and the province, signed in 2003, allowed the province to construct the buildings on national parks land. This agreement was drawn up to allow the province and Entilini access to national park land so they could protect the road from falling rocks or manage picnic sites.

“Soon after the agreement had been signed, SANParks said in writing it was “opposed to all options for a toll plaza along Chapman’s Peak Drive, as a toll plaza cannot be seen as compatible with a national park”.

In any event, any such agreement had to conform with legislation, the affidavit said. The proposed office building would contravene the Protected Areas Act, so it would be unlawful for SANParks to give its consent for construction.

Unless Parliament resolved to deproclaim the land in question, and excised it from the national park, SANParks must manage the land in accordance with the Protected Areas Act.

Fawcett said during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Chapman’s Peak toll plaza, the public had not been told that the toll buildings would be on SANParks land.

“This would have become an issue of public debate then, not now,” Fawcett said.

In August 2010 the first detailed plans of the toll plaza and office were drawn up. They were not made public. Residents only acquired a copy in July last year.

The residents’ first court application for an urgent interdict was struck from the roll on the grounds that it lacked urgency.

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