Maiden's Cove development under fire

Residents opposed to a plan by City of Cape Town to develop Maiden’s Cove have joined a court action to stop the commercial development. (Sophia Wilhelm, GroundUp)
Residents opposed to a plan by City of Cape Town to develop Maiden’s Cove have joined a court action to stop the commercial development. (Sophia Wilhelm, GroundUp)

A R1.5bn plan by the City of Cape Town to develop Maiden's Cove - a scenic headland and beach between Clifton Fourth Beach and Glen Beach in Camps Bay - is facing a court challenge from city residents, GroundUp reports.

The development of the cove area, devised in 2015, includes plans for 52 residential homes, a boutique hotel, retail and restaurant spaces and a parking garage for 700 vehicles.

Maiden's Cove remains a special place for many people from the Bo-Kaap and Cape Flats, who were forbidden to use the beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay during apartheid.

The Clifton Precinct Development Plan has been met with outrage, expressed in affidavits from the Bo-Kaap Civic Association and community activists. They say they were left in the dark and excluded from public consultations.

Maiden's Cove for All (MCA), a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining public access to the cove, was permitted by the Western Cape High Court on July 17 to join as a fifth applicant in the court battle.

MCA will also present a new process that involves the public from the beginning to decide what to do with Maiden's Cove.

Applicants in the case include the Bungalow Owners Association (BOA), Attorney and Member of the Bungalow Owners Association Billy Gundelfinger, and residents of Clifton Mark John Willcox and Gavin Howard Varejes.

City 'has no legal authority'

The respondents are:

(1) The City of Cape Town,

(2) The chairperson of Immovable Property Adjudication Committee of the City of Cape Town,

(3) Heritage Western Cape,

(4) South African Heritage Resources Agency,

(5) National Minister of Environmental Affairs,

(6) South African National Parks, and

(7) The shareholders of a private development company called K2015298271.

MCA says the City has no legal authority to impose the plan, since the Constitution and many statutes deem the land a public trust and a protected open coastal reserve.

The organisation argues that the development strays from a more equal society by benefiting affluent people and limiting opportunity for the majority of people.

Vanessa September, chairperson of MCA, said the City was failing its constitutional duty "to engage meaningfully with those most directly affected by the proposed development, and to heal the divisions of the past by overcoming rather than intensifying racial spatial segmentation of the City".

"They [the Bo-Kaap and Cape Flats communities] will lose their large present parking area, and instead of having the mountain-side behind them, will find their picnic space overlooked by rich, privileged people in their newly built upmarket homes," she said.

September recalls how she sometimes brought her mother, who had arthritic knees, to Maiden's Cove because it was a short distance to the water. Later in life, she brought her son to play in the pools. But now, her lifelong adventures to Maiden's Cove might come to an end.

Former Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs, writing in the Daily Maverick, says that the Constitution and law places "insurmountable barriers to the realisation of the council's project" as the council is legally obliged to preserve the area as a public trust (and prohibited from commercial sale on a space beloved by Capetonians); the council cannot devise a commercial plan and then ask for comment; consultations with the public were inadequate; the law on coastal management says public authorities must enhance rather than restrict public access to the ocean; and the development will further divide the city along historical lines of prejudice.

Community gathering to be held

Councillor Stuart Diamond, the mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, would not comment while the matter is still before the court.

The City has requested more time to assess the new issues that have been raised by MCA. It has asked for indulgence until November 30 in order to respond to the papers. The judge president will look at the court roll and decide when the case can be held.

"It appears extremely unlikely that the matter will be heard this year," said September.

MCA will host a community gathering at Maiden's Cove on September 24. It has encouraged people to come and braai, picnic and share their stories about Maiden's Cove.

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