The proposed 6.8ha development has been slammed by activists, who fear the impact on the nearby conservation area, its endangered species and irreplaceable biodiversity. File photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
The city council has dismissed appeals to halt the controversial development of a hotel, high-rise residential units and retail developments on the Kenilworth Racecourse property.

The proposed 6.8ha development has been slammed by activists, who fear the impact on the nearby conservation area, its endangered species and irreplaceable biodiversity.

They charged that the city council approved the rezoning application for the development without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) being completed, and a poor public consultation process to keep the development under wraps.

The city council, however, found all environmental authorisation and protocols were abided by.

While the appeals were dismissed in February, and a final decision letter would be issued next month, some objectors were only notified their appeal was dismissed this month, when they queried progress on the case themselves.

They now have 180 days to place this mayoral decision on review.

The Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area (KRCA) is situated in the centre of the course and is regarded as one of the last and best examples of Cape Sand Fynbos remaining on the Cape Peninsula.

More than 300 indigenous plant species have been identified, of which 34 are listed as Red Data species. Thirteen different amphibian species occur in the conservation area, of which two are critically endangered and the third is listed as vulnerable.

In the development, land between the grandstand and Rosmead Avenue has been earmarked for a hotel which would link directly to the grandstand.

The Jockey Room will be converted to a restaurant linked to the hotel. The development will include provision for parking and hospitality facilities.

The original stables, along with the parade ring, are to be refurbished and newer stable, and high-density, high-rise residential units built.

In April last year, the Municipal Planning Tribunal approved an application by Nadeson Projects on behalf of the property owner Kenilworth Racing to subdivide the property, and rezone portions of the land for development.

In June, the Cape Times published a story on the development, and that month and the next, a flood of objections were lodged. In Mayor Patricia de Lille’s notice of decisions and reasons, she said 281 people who did not object to the application when it was initially advertised also purported to appeal the decision, however, they did so without submitting a petition to intervene, therefore their objections were not valid.

De Lille, however, said she was satisfied that 24 people who applied to intervene in the appeal proceedings should be accepted as valid appeals.

She said there was nothing before her to indicate the petitioners were notified and elected not to participate in the proceedings.

In responding to the concerns raised by objectors, developers said they were in compliance of environmental approvals and provincial authorities confirmed no further environmental authorisation was required.

They also changed some of their initial building plans, moving proposed maintenance facilities and conservation offices from within the racetrack area to outside the racetrack. Having considered all the information, De Lille agreed with the initial approval.

“The proposed development will assist in ensuring the continued viability of horse racing as a social and economic activity in the Cape. The mixed-use development will create numerous and varied employment and residential opportunities.”

De Lille said the development would not endanger the conservation area, with various mitigating conditions put in place to ensure no adverse impact on the environment.

Ecologist Clive McDowell said her decision was not justified. He finished a comprehensive survey of Cape Flats natural remnants in 1988, and identified the racecourse fynbos as being the top conservation priority among the 40 remaining areas which still had this type of fynbos. At the racecourse, he also rediscovered the tiny Cape micro frog previously considered to have been extinct for several decades.

“The notice of intention was put up on the gates of the racecourse. They had four pages of interested and affected parties that they did not contact or notify. Morally, they should have done so,” he said.

Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei submitted a valid appeal. Chairperson Sidney Jacobs said the organisation was only made aware of the decision weeks ago.

The City said it was in the process of notifying all parties of the outcome.

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