Housing threat to World Heritage Site

ct protea ridge _9539 inlsa THREATENED: A luxury housing development is being proposed for Protea Ridge above Kommetjie. The land is part of a World Heritage Site. The vegetation on the land is rated 100 percent irreplaceable by the city councils environmental resource department, which does not support the scheme. Photo: Brenton Geach

Environment Writer

KOMMETJIE residents are angry about proposals to build a luxury housing development on Protea Ridge in the buffer zone of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site.

The fynbos on the 10-hectare site is rated “100 percent irreplaceable” by the City of Cape Town.

The Kommetjie Heritage Society says it “uncovered” that the land was included the World Heritage Site, as this had not been disclosed by the consultants handling the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the public participation process for the housing development.

The society’s view was that the EIA was “fatally flawed”.

“It is the legal duty of the environmental consultant to place all relevant information in front of the decision-makers. They clearly did not,” society spokesman Richard Bryant said yesterday.

“It was the Kommetjie Heritage Society that uncovered the World Heritage status after months of probing.

“It is beyond belief that with all the experts involved, nobody knew.

“Or if they did know, why was this not disclosed?”

The City of Cape Town's southern district plan says special provision must be made for protection of land in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site.

No mention is made in the EIA and heritage assessment of protection of the buffer zone area.

The land, abutting the Table Mountain National Park, has been graded by the city as Biodiversity Area Category 1a, the highest grading afforded to vegetation.

The land is also important as part of a critical biodiversity corridor, the only link between the southern and northern parts of the national park, crucial for the movement of plant and animal species.

The city’s environmental resource department does not support the proposed housing development.

In its report to the environmental consultants, the department points out that the consultants’ specialist report, part of the EIA, is dated. It was done in 2011 and predated the analysis of the biodiversity network in 2012.

Contrary to the consultants’ report, the vegetation was mainly Hangklip Sand Fynbos, with some Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos and a small amount of Cape Flats Dune Sandveld.

All three of these vegetation types were threatened, the city said.

“Owing to plant species found on this property the whole site is considered to be 100 percent irreplaceable if minimum biodiversity targets are to be met,” the city’s report said.

Given that the land was part of a “critical biodiversity corridor”, the negative impacts of the housing development had been underestimated, it said.

Asked why the World Heritage Site status had not been disclosed to the public when they were asked to comment, Doug Jeffrey, of Doug Jeffrey Consultants, said the document was a draft

He said the concerns of the Kommetjie Heritage Society “will be dealt with in our next report that will be made available for public comment”.

But Bryant said Jeffrey's comment was “disingenuous”.

The heritage part of the report had been concluded and was with the Western Cape's Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning awaiting a decision.

“The brevity of the reply from Doug Jeffrey speaks for itself.”


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