Hot weather on Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town saw people flock to the beaches to take advantage of the first sign of summer. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has welcomed the significant interest from residents in the proposed Coastal By-law which is intended to better protect and manage our coastline.

The City said they are busy collating all of the comments received during the public participation process, and will consider these to improve and amend the draft version.

Cape Town’s coastline draws millions of tourists and local visitors every year. It is a national asset and contributes approximately R40 billion per annum to our local economy. The proposed by-law will assist the City to better manage our coastline; take appropriate action during emergencies in the interest of public safety; and enable law enforcement of activities that may have a damaging impact on the coastal environment.

Last month, the City published the draft Coastal By-law for public comment. 

Invitations were distributed to businesses along the coastline to participate, as were pamphlets to encourage residents in these areas to submit comment. We have hosted nine information sessions across Cape Town where City officials answered attendees’ questions and we have also encouraged residents to submit their comments online, at City libraries, or by hand.

The closing date for comments was Monday, 2 September 2019. We are still collating all of the submissions, but can confirm that to date the total number of submissions stands at approximately 700.

"I was pleasantly surprised about the significant interest in the by-law and I want to thank everybody who took the time to participate. We went to great lengths to inform the public about the by-law and residents heeded the call. 

"Approximately 150 people attended the information sessions, and I can honestly say that these engagements were extremely constructive," said Mayco Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Marian Nieuwoudt.

Officials from the City’s Coastal Management Branch are now busy collating the comments.

"I have participated in numerous radio interviews and fielded many questions from the media about the proposed clause about indecent language on beaches. This clause solicited conflicting comments with some residents asking for it to be removed, while others expressed support for the need to create an environment of respect, in particular on beaches where families and children spend a lot of time. 

"We will consider all of these comments and see how we can improve on the draft version of the by-law," said Nieuwoudt.

Similarly, a number of submissions related to pollution, the maintenance of infrastructure along the coastline, and climate change and its impact on the coastal environment.

"I’ve attended the public information sessions and attendees mostly supported the by-law as an important mechanism to preserve and protect our coastline, and to ensure that the beaches remain a safe and accessible environment for all. Comments also focused on the promotion of access to the beaches as public spaces; the City’s capacity to enforce the by-law, once approved; and public safety," Nieuwoudt said.

Officials from the City’s Coastal Management Branch will solicit senior legal advice to ensure that the final version of the proposed by-law complies with the Constitution and the City’s mandate. 

The public submissions will be considered and some clauses may be amended or even deleted.

The draft by-law will be applicable to the coastal zone, which is a public area that belongs to all South Africans. It covers the seashore, the coastal waters, and the environment on, in, under, and above the coastal zone.

"The proposed by-law will give the City the legislative powers to enforce the public’s right to access and enjoy our beaches and sea. Some residents are claiming the beaches or parcels of land in front of their properties as their own private areas by either extending their homes or gardens, or building walkways with ‘no-access’ signs on it. Our coastline belongs to all of us, and the by-law will be used to entrench this right," said Nieuwoudt.

Broadly speaking, the by-law will be a legislative tool to also ensure the sustainable use and development of the coastal area; promote the protection of the natural environment of the coastal zone; enable better regulation, protection, and governance of the coastline as a sensitive and economically valuable asset; ensure safe and enjoyable use of beaches; and to ensure measures are taken to rehabilitate or correct actions that have a damaging impact on the coastal environment.

"If all goes as planned, the draft by-law will serve before the Portfolio Committee on Spatial Planning and Environment in November for councillors’ input, and then before Council for approval early in the new year," said Alderman Nieuwoudt.

The proposed draft by-law, if approved by Council, will only become effective once published in the Provincial Gazette.

The City’s Coastal Management Branch drafted the proposed by-law. It is founded on the principles of the City's Integrated Coastal Management Policy and Coastal Management Programme that were adopted by Council in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and the National Environmental Management Integrated Coastal Management Act 36 of 2014 as amended.

Cape Argus