Redevelopment opposed

2018-02-27 06:00
The River Club in Observatory.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

The River Club in Observatory.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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Seven years later, the community of Observatory is still objecting to the plans to redevelop the River Club in Liesbeek Avenue.

Residents have raised a number of concerns about the proposed redevelopment of the river which they hope to transform into a canal.

These concerns include the negative impact on the environment, the significance of the area’s history and risks posed to the nearby households.

According to residents, these are the same reasons that resulted in the delay when the proposal was first made in 2011.

It is reported that the developers once again engaged with the community on their proposals to redevelop at a meeting on Thursday 14 February to present their proposal.

This resulted in the community vowing to protect their land.

They say that by so doing, they would be preventing possible problems that are likely to be caused by this redevelopment.

Resident Edwin Angela says that at the meeting they had with the developers, many of the concerns raised by the residents were left unanswered.

“Clearly they have not dealt with the matter of our concerns, which means residents would be faced with the consequences on their own if they let this redevelopment proceed,” says Angela.

“We are talking about an anticipated huge increase in traffic congestion and a negative impact on the wetlands and floodplains.”

Another resident, Janet Cronje, says she has lived in Observatory for 20 years and is aware of the floods pouring into the area during heavy rainfall.

She says that if the redevelopment continues, they will suffer at a later stage.

Cronje believes the authorities should rather get involved and consider developing the area into an urban park, paying homage to the site’s strong heritage aspect.

According to the Observatory Civic Association (OCA) this multimillion rand redevelopment would comprise 12-storey buildings and low-cost housing.

Marc Turok of the OCA says the proposed development of the river is “unacceptable”.

“This was another attempt by the River Club for community engagement. From the gathering, it was clear that residents were alarmed by the proposed development.”

“The idea of installing a canal to replace the river, roads being built on the floodplain and the raising of the floodplain on a protected heritage area are all simply unacceptable.

“The stakeholders have gone to great lengths in designing a proposal that is more suitable, but this is continued to be ignored,” Turok continues.

It is reported that the OCA’s large development and architecture and heritage committees, together with other associations, will try to monitor the progress of the proposal and address the concerns.

One of the members of the River Club management, who did not want to be named says the Club does not own the property and is not involved with the redevelopment plans.

He however, says it would be “good to see it developed and it was interesting to see the public getting involved in decision making.”

Matthew Law, the project manager says it is hard for them to anticipate the progress as they are still doing public engagements. Law said with projects like these it is common to have conflicting views.

He says that they are aware that there will be positive and negative impacts towards both the heritage and the environment.

Law says at this stage they are focusing on the heritage impact and adds the public is welcome to submit their objections.

Mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron says no plans have been submitted to their offices.

“To date, no development proposals have been submitted by the River Club,” he says.

“ With that said, any infilling of the wetlands or floodplain would require authorisation from the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema), as well as from the National Department of Water and Sanitation in terms of the National Water Act and from the City of Cape Town in terms of our Stormwater Management Bylaw,” Herron says.

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