Another claim to Ashburton’s green spaces

2010-04-13 00:00

WITH the Mpushini Business Park still awaiting a decision from the Development Facilitation Act (DFA) tribunal, another development application for a property alongside the N3 in the Ashburton area was heard last week. This was for the Rita Light Industrial Park.

The application by Begin Africa Services on behalf of Daisy Wheel Investments is for a 19,4-hectare site consisting of 18 light industrial sites, three public spaces, one sewage works and five public roads. The site is on the west side of the N3 between the Umlaas Road interchange and the Lynnfield Park/Lion Park interchange.

Presenting on behalf of the applicant, Shaun Hornby, of legal firm Hornby, Smyly, Glavovic Inc, said the land is currently undeveloped apart from a small business producing cement cladding.

Although the area is currently zoned for agriculture, Hornby said the national and provincial agriculture departments said they do not object to light industrial development and consequently the applicant is applying for rezoning.

Hornby said the proposed development is in line with Msunduzi’s Municipalty’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and would also benefit the municipality’s rates revenue base and is in alignment with the strategic and economic development goals of the municipality.

He said the site is also on the provincial priority development corridor from Durban to Howick and therefore in accord with regional planning initiatives.

Three large companies have already indicated they want to take up the majority of the sites: SA Paper Mills, African Sun Oil Refineries and Corroseal. The 18 sites range from 4 900 square metres to 21 500 square metres.

Water for the proposed development will be taken from the Umlaas Road reservoir via a pipeline and sanitation will be via closed septic tanks and a package treatment plant.

Hornby said that Eskom would build a new sub-station to support not only this development but others in the Ashburton area already before the DFA or in planning stages.

The tribunal was concerned that three companies were to take over the majority of the sites and asked why the applicant was asking for 18 separate sites. The applicant said these companies operate separate businesses which would occupy the sites.

Nora Choveaux, representing the Preservation of the Mkondeni Mpushini Biodiversity Trust (PMMBT), questioned the change in land use from agricultural to industrial, pointing out that this is in conflict with the municipality’s Spatial Development Framework (SDF). Hornby responded saying that the SDF is a “dynamic document” and that the municipality’s vision for this area had changed dramatically during 2009.

The municipality’s manager of investment promotion, David Gengan, said the municipality supports the development because it fits in with the development framework of the city, while he acknowledged certain levels of planning have to be done in more detail. He said there are at least five developments alongside that being proposed.

Speaking for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which opposes the development, Craig Rushton said the character of the area is more agricultural and rural than urban. “We don’t see the compatibility of industrial development with the agricultural character.”

Rushton said the location of the proposed development is “isolated” in relationship to Pietermaritzburg and had been presented without planning in place. “We see it at as an ad hoc development.”

In response, Gengan pointed out the population density imbalances resulting from apartheid-era planning. “We are sitting with an apartheid city. How do we put that right? ... This is a dynamic city that is changing as we go along.”

Hornby expressed surprise at the department’s objection as the development site is in the provincial corridor identified for industrial development.

Rushton said that driving down to Durban along the N3, itself a tourism route, one sees a mix of wilderness, rural and urban landscapes. “Do we want to wreck that space ... do we want to see these corridors of development?”

After an adjournment, Rodney Jolly, chairing the tribunal, said a decision could not be reached as there were too many matters outstanding that require attention. Firstly the DFA wanted to know from the applicant: “What are you actually asking for?” Jolly said although it might appear a stupid question it is fundamental to the application. The DFA needs more detail on how 18 sites could be divided between three big tenants.

Other requirements include a signed services agreement, a feasibility study and cash flow for the development, details of facilities for workers, and also what contribution there would be from the municipality for residential housing as there is already an informal settlement in the area and potential employment could see an influx of more people.

No time limit was given for these requirements.

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