Durban - The proposed R2 billion logistics park at Clairwood racecourse in Durban has been rejected by the provincial department of environmental affairs following “critical concerns” by several departments in the eThekwini municipality.
The racecourse was sold by the Gold Circle group nearly two years ago for R430 million to Capital Property Fund, which plans to turn the site into a logistics and distribution park for goods and shipping containers.
However, eThekwini raised concerns about the negative environmental impacts to one of the last major wetland areas south of the city, as well as increased traffic congestion from heavy trucks transporting goods.
In a letter sent to the environmental consultants for the logistics park last month, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Environmental Affairs said eThekwini officials had raised “critical issues and concerns” which had not been addressed sufficiently. They had, therefore, decided to reject the environmental impact report for the project.
It was willing to reconsider its rejection if Capital Property could reach agreements that addressed the concerns.
One concern was that Capital Property and its environmental consultants had not gone far enough to mitigate the damage to one of the last wetland areas in south Durban and appeared to have “largely ignored” the expert advice of specialist reports.
According to the draft environmental impact report last year, Capital Projects proposed setting aside about 10 percent of the site as a “conservation area” and to relocate a number of critically endangered plants such as the Race Course Lily, which is found only at the course.
The department complained that the consultancy, Kerry Seppings Environmental Management Specialists, seemed to place economic development above the environmental costs of the proposal.
The environmental planning department acknowledged the need for a new logistics and distribution park and that it would contribute significantly to the local economy.
“However, the need for economic development needs to be balanced with the equally important need to sustain the natural resource base on which the municipality’s economic growth depends.”
The department’s concerns were compounded by likely loss of other large areas of open space and valuable ecological habitat at the old Durban International Airport and the proposed Dig-Out Harbour.
During the environmental rating process, a specialist report appeared to have given unacceptably low scores to the value of the Clairwood land for birds, amphibians and other fauna and flora.
The proposed 7.4ha “conservation area” in the northern section of the 76ha racecourse site was not adequate to mitigate against ecological damage. The main feature of the small conservation area was a large artificial pond whose purpose appeared to be “a ready-made stormwater attenuation pond”.
“The apparent mitigation and offset proposals presented do not come close to adequately addressing the impacts to wetland habitat that will occur should development be approved,” the department said.
In its response, the Kerry Seppings consultancy disagreed with suggestions that environment rating scores were too low, or that there was an attempt to place economic development imperatives above the environment. It said the layout of the conservation area had been amended slightly to reduce the size of the water pond to allow for more grassland area.
The eThekwini Transport Authority has also raised separate concerns about the likely traffic congestion impacts cause by heavy container trucks. In its objections, the authority did not go into detail, simply recording that a traffic impact assessment done by Aurecon South Africa was “not acceptable”.
“The areas of concern have been communicated to the applicant’s traffic engineer.”
Kerry Seppings said the project’s traffic engineer had held meetings with eThekwini Transport Authority to address concerns and did not anticipate “any major showstoppers”.
The eThekwini electricity department said the logistics park would require a major new substation and Capital Property would be liable for these costs. In its response, Kerry Seppings said one was not needed immediately, but would be in the future.
The municipality’s fire safety department said it was worried about the proximity of the development to a Transnet underground fuel pipeline as well as a Sasol gasline. The Major Hazard Installation risk assessment would be incomplete or inaccurate unless these risks were assessed.
Responding, Kerry Seppings said the risks to the Transnet pipeline had been included in the risk assessment, while the Sasol gas pipeline risks would be incorporated in the revised assessment.
Capital Property Fund spokesman Nico Prinsloo did not respond to requests for comment. - The Mercury