Site of the proposed development at The River Club in Observatory. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – An environmental consulting firm is compiling an assessment report on a proposed development at The River Club in Observatory, which is opposed by the residents’ association.

SRK Consulting said: “(The firm) has been appointed by the LLPT (Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust) to undertake the basic assessment process required in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998. The project will entail so-called triple bottom line costs, ie social, environmental and economic costs.”

Observatory residents have been objecting to plans to redevelop The River Club for seven years. Residents have said the proposed development would have a negative impact on the environment alongside the Liesbeek River, including flora and fauna, and on important historical sites.

The Liesbeek River, which is less than 9km long, is situated in the oldest urbanised river valley in South Africa.

The Two Rivers Urban Park is located at the confluence of the Black and Liesbeek rivers, about 5km from the city centre.

Proponents of development say land alongside the Liesbeek River is ideally suited to development, which would create jobs.

The Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust, which owns most of the land on which conference facilities and golf courses are located in Observatory, plans to develop 5 hectares of the site and landscape and rehabilitate the remaining 10ha for recreational use or for service infrastructure such as roads and parking.

SRK said the challenge for decision-makers was to conclude what was sustainable in the long term, and that an outcome might entail trade-offs between social (and cultural), environmental and economic benefits.

Observatory resident Colleen Hart said: “They want to build (another) Century City Canal Walk development at The River Club. 

The land is a wetland, flood plain, below the 100-year flood line, home to the rare Observatory orchid and the leopard toad. Also, the burial ground of First Nation peoples.

“And diagonally opposite The River Club, also below the flood line, on a flood plain, John Comitis (the developer) has said in the media that he wants to build a 10000-seater stadium on government land which officially falls under Two Rivers Urban Park. To host PSL matches. 

"Are they all mad? Observatory residents are completely opposed to this on environmental, heritage, traffic and noise grounds.”

Tauriq Jenkins, chairperson of the Observatory Civic Association, said: “What the issue is here deals with one of the most sacred grounds. We will be very sure to vigorously contest anything that goes against the wishes and the will of the people. This is a battle of restorative justice.”

The Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust said it would not comment at present. A public meeting would be held at which findings of the assessment process would be presented, and further concerns could be raised in August.

Cape Argus