‘Halt skydiving development’

2009-11-03 00:00

“ALL development stops; not another brick.” This was the instruction issued yesterday by Elaine Donaldson, Mkambathini Municipality’s town planner, following a site inspection at a sky-diving venue in Eston.

The property, formerly a farm, was bought by developer Rob Taylor in March and has since been turned into a sky-diving facility called Angels’ Way. An existing airstrip, used mainly by microlights, was upgraded and a hangar, chalet accommodation and other facilities for planes and skydivers built. No planning or building applications were lodged for any of these structures.

“A whole legal process has been missed out on this development,” said Donaldson.

Yesterday’s site inspection was also attended by representatives from the provincial department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Afzelia Environmental Consulting and Graeme Gordon (representing Taylor).

Following the inspection, the provincial agriculture department will be issuing a pre-compliance and a compliance notice. The former allows the recipient a specified time period in which to rectify matters. If this is not done, a compliance notice is issued, which can result in criminal charges being laid.

The department was alerted to the development earlier this year and a site inspection in April found that the 900 metre landing strip had been upgraded and construction of a hangar had commenced without environmental authorisation.

A pre-compliance notice was issued in June that stated that no further construction could take place. However, this instruction was ignored, the hangar is now complete and has catering and entertainment facilities for skydivers. At the time of yesterday’s inspection there were over 50 people using the facility. The compliance notice will be issued with regard to this structure.

At a meeting held with Taylor in August to plot a way forward, Taylor said he wants to rectify matters and he has since appointed Afzelia Environmental Consulting to make the necessary applications for environmental authorisation.

Concerns have also been expressed about fuel storage as well as impacts on grasslands and the oribi population. In addition, due to non-compliance with regulations, none of the property or the activities taking place is covered by insurance.

 

Taylor is the developer of Amber Valley in Howick. In 2006, he was fined R15 000 after being caught driving his Lamborghini Diablo at 207 km/h.

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