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River Club developer scores a victory as Supreme Court of Appeal rules in their favour

The image above contains construction cranes and workers on the River Club site where they are building Amazon’s HQ. The background of the image contains buildings, and signal hill.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) has been trying to stop construction at the River Club site pending a legal battle over development approvals. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 19, 2023


Cape Town - In a victory for the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust (LLPT), the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed an appeal application from the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), which is trying to stop construction at the River Club site pending a legal battle over development approvals.

The site, which is expected to house online retailer Amazon’s African headquarters, has been the subject of several court battles between the OCA, which is a community-based organisation, and the LLPT.

The OCA had challenged the Western Cape High Court’s finding that the initial interdict order was granted as a result of incorrect and misleading submissions at the behest of OCA.

The SCA’s latest order set aside the OCA’s attempt to appeal against last year’s decision of a full bench of the Western Cape High Court, which found their claims that there was exclusion or otherwise inadequate consultation by the developers to be false.

In that case the court reversed the decision of the first instance court to grant an interdict and unanimously found that the OCA’s case had entirely failed to meet the requirements for an interdict against the construction of the River Club development.

The full bench had also found that there was no risk of harm at all to the heritage of the area, and said that, in fact, the development might enhance the resource.

The OCA did not try to challenge the substance of the court’s decision, but had attempted to challenge the costs order that was granted against them, including the costs of two counsel of the developer, the City of Cape Town, the Province, and the Western Cape First Nation Collective.

In this latest decision, the SCA has dismissed the OCA’s leave to appeal against the application again with a costs order awarded against them on the grounds that the requirements for special leave to appeal were not satisfied.

The judges ruled the OCA had no reasonable prospect or realistic chance of success on appeal. Contacted for comment on the ruling, OCA spokesperson Lelie London said: “The OCA is consulting its lawyers at this point. We can’t say anything further right now.”

LLPT’s Trace Venter said they felt vindicated by the SCA order and construction was set to continue.

“Over a period of more than four years, LLPT conducted an all-encompassing and exhaustive environmental, heritage and planning application process in full compliance with all applicable statutory requirements.

“Yet it was dragged to court by the OCA and its associates in a manifestly inappropriate strategy to try to stop the development at all costs.”

Venter said the appeal judgment of the high court made it plain that the OCA had failed to establish even a prima facie case as it found that the OCA “failed at the first hurdle”.

Venter said LLPT saw the SCA order as “another win for the residents of Cape Town who stand to benefit from the numerous benefits the development will deliver”.