Furore over city park

2011-08-22 00:00

THERE seems to be confusion surrounding Settlers Park’s R2 million “redevelopment” project run by Growing Parks, a non-profit organisation that is refurbishing the public open space opposite Grey’s Hospital.

The Msunduzi Municipality has taken a sharp U-turn after it said that the chairperson of Growing Parks, Farhana Vally (34), had a “signed agreement” with the municipality to re-engineer the open space park.

However, Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma retracted and later told The Witness, “I have since established through the estates department that in fact the agreement that was signed is null and void. It doesn’t have a council resolution.”

Therefore, Vally should not be on site or doing anything at the park.

Growing Parks has already collected rubbish, fixed toilets, cut down three jacaranda trees, mapped the area for the playground and paid a deposit for the necessary equipment.

Vally, who is an occupational therapist by profession, plans to build three trampolines, a massive jungle gym, a maze, bicycle track and plant an indigenous garden.

She has since threatened to file a lawsuit against the municipality for misleading her.

“The municipality has never said anything about the documents I have being ‘null and void’.

“I’ve been planning this for five years and it’s not as if I woke one morning and decided to cut trees at Settlers Park,” she added.

The Witness is in possession of a letter signed in September 2009, issued by the community services and social equity unit for the parks, sport and recreation division, that reads, “This is to certify that Mrs. F Vally has since been granted permission to use the site with immediate effect for the purpose of developing a play centre for children…”

The mother of three, who is passionate about children’s development, said “she only wants to create a safe space where children can play”.

Ward 25 councillor Dave Ryder criticised the municipality for keeping him in the dark about what is happening in his ward.

“There needs to be a proper procedure to be followed and it wasn’t. There was no consultation.

“The municipality is obliged to consult me if there’s anything happening in my ward,” he said.

Ward 25 residents such as Marlene Dick fear that once the park is revamped it will not be free to all and there will be an entrance fee, meaning people will no longer be able to walk dogs or have a picnic there.

Vally said the park will still be free, but that “cost recoveries” will be charged — for instance when a child plays on games that use electricity.

Vally added, “I want the park to have CCTV cameras and a security guard. This will be a place where everyone can play together and interact.

“But now I don’t know how to proceed because of municipality’s administration meltdown.”

Zuma said the estates department is dealing with the matter.

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