Rumpus over tidal pool

2013-08-10 00:00

THE battle over the construction of a tidal pool in front of the five-star hotels along the Umhlanga Rocks beachfront rages on with the public expected to have their say on the plan.

The R28 million tidal pool, expected to be a popular entertainment venue, faces growing opposition.

Prominent people who holiday at the Oyster Box and Beverly Hills hotels have joined added their voices to objections to the plan.

Hotels at Umhlanga Rocks are the preferred playground of high-profile and wealthy people, including politicians and international guests.

The majority of local residents and people involved in the hospitality industry in Umhlanga are against the move, as they believe that the tidal pool would have a downmarket effect on tourism.

Jon Marshall, of Phelamanga Projects which is contracted to eThekwini Municipality to conduct a full assessment of the proposal, yesterday said the proposed project has not been popular.

He said specialists’ studies on the proposal are available, including social, economic, hydrological and historical research.

He said the assessment report is not yet complete, but a basic assessment report is set to be completed in the next few weeks.

General manager of Oyster Box, Wayne Coetzer, said: “As a business with a large vested interest in the long-term survival and prosperity of Umhlanga Rocks for the future, the management doesn’t agree with the building of the tidal pool.”

He said the plan would have a negative impact on a number of rare marine species.

“There are so few rock areas left on the KZN coast that we feel we should be protecting and preserving, and not destroying such valuable natural areas,” he said.

Coetzer said the argument that a tidal pool would be a tourist attraction, and keep visitors coming to Umhlanga in the future, when the beaches have diminished due to tidal surging, is flawed.

He said the tidal pool will not be able to hold more than 700 people, which will make no impact whatso­ever on the actual space required, catering for the current visitors.“The average number of visitors on the beach during the season is in excess of 27 000 people. A tidal pool will be totally inadequate to cope with the expected demand in time to come,” said Coetzer.

With the council already stating that they do not have the budget to carry out maintenance, Coetzer said the pool would be the responsibility of local businesses and ratepayers to keep clean.

“We believe the money could be better spent upgrading the living conditions, social services and facilities of the many people who live in informal areas.”

Attempts to get comment from the Beverly Hills Hotel were unsuccessful.

There are two sites for the proposed project, with different projected costs.

One, called the Black Rock tidal pool, according to Marshall, would be very costly to develop and is high-risk.

He said the Lighthouse site was the most controversial one as it would be built on the beach right in front of the five-star hotels.

The talks about the proposed pool arose in 2005 when the municipality noted that the coastal stretch frequently had limited or no beach area during high tides.

The public will have 40 days to respond before a final report is sent to the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs for a decision.

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