eThekwini Metro refuses access to airport documents

2014-12-01 00:00

THE eThekwini Metro has refused to grant access to a confidential document on the future of the city’s airport.

In response to a Promotion of ­Access to Information Act application, the city’s ­deputy spokesperson Mary Ann ­Grafetsberger said city manager Sbu Sithole wanted to defer the request for three months as the documents asked for were deemed confidential.

The city was expected to reply to the PAIA application by November 19. To date, The Witness has yet to receive the formal response it has demanded in order to consider whether to appeal.

Multiple documents, including a feasibility study completed by SSI/Royal HaskoningDHV, which was handed to Sithole earlier this year, were requested.

Among the other requests were:

• copies of any diagrams, maps or ­conceptual graphics detailing how the future of Virginia is envisaged;

• details of any bids, presentations or proposals made to the city by private sector developers; and

• documents that detail where the ­airport will be moved.

Virginia ward councillor Shaun Ryley said any report that has been compiled for the city is a “public document”.

Virginia operator spokesperson ­Daryl Mann said they are awaiting a ­decision to be made next week as ­recently stated by Sithole.

“We would move to KSIA. It is the only alternative, but we would only move if they built the second runway and there must be capacity for fixed wing and rotor training,” said Mann.

Mann said the city’s proposal to move all operations to Scottburgh was “out of the question”.

“We want the remainder of this airport’s seven-year lease to be recognised and a proviso that we will only need to move once the facilities at KSIA are ready.”

He confirmed that if the city failed to honour its lease, “legal recourse would be sought”.

In August, The Witness revealed a plan by the city to move Virginia ­Airport to a farm-side runway in ­Scottburgh. In a leaked document, The Witness has established that eThekwini officials support a recommendation to move the historic airport to one of three alternative sites, with Scottburgh topping the list.

Virginia’s vast beachfront site in Durban North has been estimated to be worth hundreds of millions to ­potential property developers.

A feasibility study by Dutch company Royal Haskoning was summarised in a report to the eThekwini executive committee by Sithole last week. He said the reason for action stemmed from the fact that “the use of the airport has been declining steadily since 2008” and it was “operating at a loss”.

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