Durban - Ballito’s rapid growth has some residents worried that traffic, water and electricity problems will escalate as more shopping centres spring up around the small town.
While there is excitement about cinemas and more national retailers coming to Ballito, some residents are concerned about the new shopping centres and expansion to some centres, including the R1.4 billion expansion of the Ballito Junction and the construction of the R800m N2 City.
There are also fears that Ballito is losing its identity as a tourist town, with retail, property development and commerce, and the associated infrastructure development, redefining the look and feel of public space.
Some have attributed the commercial development boom to King Shaka International Airport at La Mercy.
The town has three shopping centres: the Ballito Lifestyle Centre, Ballito Bay Mall and Ballito Junction, all a stone’s throw from each other.
The N2 City, part-owned by the owners of the Lifestyle Centre, is expected to be completed within five years.
To manage traffic problems, major roads like the N2 interchange and part of Ballito Drive are being upgraded, but residents fear this will not solve the problems in the long term.
“We’re really excited about the cinemas that are going to be added at Ballito Junction but, at the same time, small businesses might have to close their doors as more malls are built,” said Di Jones of the Dolphin Coast Conservancy. “They won’t be able to compete with all the big retailers.”
Jones said she was afraid that Ballito was slowly losing its tourist town identity.
“The supporting infrastructure is not coping with what we have now. Last week Monday the power was out for nine hours. Until our power stations are upgraded and Ballito Drive is widened down to the beach, then I would say, let’s put the commercial developments on hold.”
Dolphin Coast Ratepayers’ Association chairman, Louis Luyt Jnr, echoed Jones’s sentiments and said the Gateway Shopping Centre was 20 minutes away.
“We are not trying to upset their business aspirations, but the town is simply not ready for a mall expansion or another development, because the infrastructure is battling.
“Two years ago we had major water shortages over the festive season soon after holiday-makers flocked into town. We haven’t built any more reservoirs since then, so how are we going to cope when we no longer an have off-peak season? Sewerage works haven’t been upgraded either.”
He accused the KwaDukuza Municipality town planning department of not doing justice to Ballito by giving go-ahead to developers before making sure the infrastructure was ready.
Ballito councillor Colin Marsh said the expansion of Ballito Junction and other commercial developments, such as construction of a Virgin Active gym, were what the small town needed.
“These bring employment opportunities and, with the current economic climate, we embrace ventures that give people jobs.”
Marsh said the great thing was that tourists would not have to travel to Gateway or Durban, as “they would be spoilt for choice right here in Ballito”.
KwaDukuza Municipality spokesman Sifiso Zulu said the municipality was not yet in a position to comment.
“The municipality is still considering the development application and, during this process, the municipality will use issues such as availability of water, roads and electricity among other things, to make a determination regarding the application,” he said.