Applicants trying to halt already approved River Club development
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CAPE TOWN - The article “Date set for River Club interdict hearing brought by Khoi Council” (Cape Times, 13 January 2022) reports on a number of mistruths being spread by two applicants trying to stop the already approved River Club redevelopment in Observatory, Cape Town, and a small group of activists who support them (calling themselves the Liesbeek Action Campaign).
This group led by Prof London and Mr. Jenkins, has been driving a misinformation campaign about the project for a number of years and their interdict application is just the latest opportunistic attempt to try and halt a project that will bring numerous benefits to the people of Cape Town and, which is supported by the majority of First Nations leaders in the Peninsula.
While the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape First Nations Collective will be opposing the interdict application when it is heard by the Western Cape High Court on the January19, 20 and 21, it is also critical that the mistruths in the newspaper article are corrected.
This group continually claims that the River Club property is “environmentally sensitive” when the exact opposite is true. Before construction started last year, the property, which is a degraded infill site, housed a mashie golf course, driving range, restaurant, bar and large tarmac parking area. All the water bodies adjacent to the site are also highly polluted and were canalised a number of years ago.
In order to restore the riverine corridor to its original natural state, some R38 million will be spent to rehabilitate it, including replacing the concrete canal in which the river flows into a beautiful, naturalised riverine environment that will include breeding grounds for the Western Cape Leopard Toad and a much-improved habitat for other species. For this reason, independent specialists view the project as a major ecological gain and an unprecedented rehabilitation initiative in Cape Town.
The project also enjoys the vociferous support of the Western Cape First Nations, who speak through a collective voice, (which includes the Gorinhaiqua tribe who is irrefutably recognised as being the historical custodians of the area), because of the many amenities that will be included to commemorate and celebrate the intangible heritage of the broader Two Rivers area – of which the River Club property forms 5%. This will include a cultural, heritage, and media centre, which will be operated and managed by the First Nations, an indigenous garden, heritage eco-trail and garden amphitheatre to function both as sites of memory and living cultural practice and celebration.
Over 60% of the private redevelopment will become accessible public open space that will include a 65m to 75m green ecological park and 6 km of walking and cycling routes.
It is baseless and defamatory for this group to claim that “construction started before all due processes were completed”. In direct contrast to these false claims, the current construction taking place on the site is entirely lawful. After a comprehensive three-year development approval process, the project was authorised by the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Government and has all rights and permits in place. Notably, 400 construction jobs have already been created on the site with a further 4 839 construction jobs expected to be created in total.
The allegations made regarding the site not closing down for “statutory” builders’ holidays are also false. Firstly, the traditional annual break is not mandated by legislation. Secondly, the site was closed from 22 December 2021 to 3 January 2022. For this group to suggest that it is untoward to have a shortened builders’ holiday period against the context of the current state of our economy and record high unemployment levels, highlights just how out of touch they are with these harsh realities and who will suffer the most should the project be halted.
The enormous heritage, environmental, economic and social benefits that will be lost should this sustainable project be stopped is exactly why the LLPT, the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the First Nations Collective will be opposing the interdict application next week.
We simply cannot have two misguided groups, led by activists spreading misinformation and trying to cause irreparable harm by wanting to stop a project in their neighbourhood that will create thousands of jobs and transform an under-utilised and degraded site into a beautiful public amenity, that will be enjoyed by all the people of Cape Town.
James Tannenberger is spokesperson and Trustee of the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust