Proposed Hilton development hit by environmental concerns

2013-12-03 00:00

ENVIRONMENTAL concerns might scupper a proposed double-storey retail and office complex in Hilton.

The development is set to include 5 580 square metres of shops, 3 660 square metres of offices, including medical suites and a health club, and 6 334 square metres of parking space.

Since Hilton has no water-borne sewerage system, septic tanks and soak pits are planned for the development, causing residents to express concern about the impact on the environment, as well as related noise, traffic and congestion.

A water scientist who asked not to be named has examined the wetland report submitted with the assessment and said he would be “particularly concerned” by this development because of evident soil piping, which causes sinkholes.

“All the reports point out that soil piping is present on the site — this already indicates quite a bit of groundwater movement and hence the ability of septic tanks [and associated French drains/soak pits] to short circuit the natural soil filtering ability of these types of sewer treatment systems. Hence, there could well be ineffective sewage treatment. Additionally, the stormwater generated from what is planned will significantly exacerbate this issue,” said the scientist.

A resident, Tony Koch, said he moved to the area to be in the country, adding that according to the plans he might have a driveway for delivery vehicles built five metres from his living room.

“When this development was first proposed about a year ago it was going to be a daycare health facility for seniors with some related retail such as a pharmacy, etc. Now it’s a fully fledged shopping centre,” he said.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) names Pick n Pay as the anchor tenant, and the retailer’s general manager for KZN Anil Gopi­chund confirmed that they had “expressed interest” but nothing had been finalised.

The EIA has been done by Green Door Environmental on behalf of Doug Cornish of Wallpaper Investments Pty Ltd.

The report also mentions the intention to develop a site on Hilton Avenue next to the station into a tourism/craft centre and the desire to transfer permission granted in 2007 to develop that property as a commercial/office space, to the new site.

The space on which the development is planned spans two open lots bordering Hayfields and Cowan roads, and includes the top part of a large sloping field that has a wetland at the bottom of it. The area is well used by walkers, dog owners, runners and cyclists.

General manager of planning for uMngeni Municipality, Steve Simpson, said the alarm from residents was premature. Simpson said the matter was “under environmental consideration” and this was just a basic assessment report. He said a planning application was not considered yet because of the environmental concerns.

Simpson said several other factors had to be considered, including that a large development across the highway planned on Mondi land would have a major impact on Hilton, and that bulk services of electricity and water in the town were already stretched.

The area is currently zoned for residential and cluster residential use.

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