The city has approved the rezoning application for the development without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) being completed.
This is despite an EIA being required for developments inside an urban area where land to be developed is bigger than 5 hectares, activists charged.
The area to be developed is 7.6ha, and falls just outside the Kenilworth Race course Conservation Area (KRCA).
The KRCA is situated in the centre of the Kenilworth Racecourse and is regarded as one of the last and the 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.
Activists have also raised concerns with “a poor public consultation process”, with some groups only finding out about the development two years in the making, this month.
The notice of intent to develop states that the development concept is based on the retention and improvement of the racing facilities, reinforcing the KRCA as a regional park and the creation of a positive interface with Rosmead Avenue through the provision of mixed use development.
The development will include maintenance facilities and the offices for the KRCA to be relocated within the track and provision to be made for parking and hospitality facilities.
Land between the grandstand and Rosmead Avenue has been identified for a hotel which would link directly to the grandstand. The Jockey Room will be converted to a restaurant linked to the hotel.
The original stables, along with the parade ring, are to be refurbished and newer stables to be upgraded, and high density high-rise residential units built.
The Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei (FoZR) say an inadequate public process was followed.
“It would have been expected that given a development of this magnitude in such a sensitive area that a minimum of public involvement would have been conducted,” read its objection. It also says the Kenilworth Environmental Advisory Committee, a statutory body formed in 1999 that authorised earlier development at Kenilworth, was unaware of the development.
FoZR member Richard Cammell said: “The issue is not about development itself, the issue is about the procedure the city has followed, they have tried to sneak this one through the back door. This only came to my attention on Thursday night.”
The Friends of the KRCA also objected. Committee member Margaret Kahle said it was “disturbing” that no EIA was done. The Kenilworth Residents Association says initial concerns were addressed, and it supported it.
Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron, aid the application was advertised in local media, registered notices sent to directly affected people, and a notice sent to the Kenilworth Residents’ Association, as well as to the ward councillors in April last year. A notice was displayed on-site as determined by the Municipal Planning By-law.
“Two objections were received. The Kenilworth Residents’ Association supported the proposed application, subject to some conditions. The application was approved by the Municipal Planning Tribunal and is currently in the appeal process,” he said.
He said the development was outside of the existing horse quarantine and fynbos conservation areas, and the development on the site would result in a greater pool of levies for the maintenance of the biodiversity area.
“Confirmation was received from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning that the proposal does not require an environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.”
A property consultant for Kenilworth Racecourse, Faldi Samaai, said: “We have followed the process in terms of rezoning. It has taken two years for this process to come to fruition.”
The department could not respond to requests for comment by deadline.