Cape Town – A ruling by the Western Cape High Court has been described as "a watershed ruling" for the preservation of Cape Town's rivers, floodplains, and wetlands.
The judgment refers to a case in which the City approached the courts to order Really Useful Investments, a developer of the Hout Bay Beach Club, to remove infilling material from the floodplain of the Disa River.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the judgment sent a strong message to developers in terms of compliance with City by-laws.
"The City's environmental management department has vigorously pursued this matter since 2011 given that protecting the wetland and floodplain of the Disa River is of extreme importance to the ecological health and functioning of the watercourse," Herron said.
"Environmental management will keep on monitoring the situation to ensure that Really Useful Investments abides by the court order, and that it does what is needed to restore the integrity of the Disa River."
The City was forced to go to court after Really Useful Investments started infilling part of the wetland and floodplain of the Disa River in 2011 as part of the development of the Hout Bay Beach Club which has angered locals.
Herron said in April 2011 the City served a notice of contravention of the storm water management by-law on the developer. The notice required the company to immediately stop infilling the floodplain and to remove the fill material that was placed within the floodplain.
Really Useful Investments ordered to pay City's costs
"The City's environmental management department followed this with a directive in terms of the Environment Conservation Act which required that the fill material be removed from the floodplain," Herron said.
"The outcome of the Disa River case in the Western Cape High Court is a major victory for the City. We do all we can to protect rivers, wetlands and floodplains, particularly as these form an essential part of Cape Town's natural environment and biodiversity."
He said Really Useful Investments initially indicated it would comply, but by late 2012 only a part of the wetland had been restored.
"In 2014 the City commenced with court proceedings in an effort to force Really Useful Investments to comply fully with the notice and directive that had been served," Herron said.
"The City's proceedings were delayed as both parties sought to find an amicable settlement, but when these efforts proved fruitless the City's application was finally set down for hearing in court."
Herron said the court declared the infilling of the floodplain to be in contravention of the storm water management by-law on February 2, and ordered Really Useful Investments to comply with the directive within 45 days of the judgment.
"Thus, the court has ordered Really Useful Investments to remove the soil, general rubble, and fill that was placed within the floodplain of the Disa River within 45 days. Should it not comply with the order, the City is authorised to enter the property and to remove the material, and to recover the costs from Really Useful Investments," Herron said.
Really Useful Investments was also ordered by the court to pay the City's legal costs.