eThekwini Municipality pushes for Virginia Airport redevelopment
Durban - eThekwini Municipality is pushing ahead with its plans to redevelop Virginia Airport in Durban North into a mixed-use property despite the backlash from small aircraft operators and the community.
Late last year, the City unveiled fresh plans to redevelop Virginia Airport as a mixed-use catalytic project with luxury housing, tourism accommodation and retail outlets to generate revenue.
According to the report that was presented to the executive committee, the City announced that the airport would be turned into a vibrant 24-hour city node along the M4 corridor and will be integrated with platforms suitable for international event hosting such as motor shows.
The project was then subjected to the public participation process.
In the latest developments, in the recent financial statements for the catalyst project, the municipality revealed that a report on the outcome of the public participation process had been finalised and was supposed to be submitted last month.
The financial statement also indicated that due to the city’s lack of finance, it has authorised the economic cluster to proceed with the process of seeking an expression of interest (EOI) from potential private investors for the re-development of the airport.
The advert for public participation process has already closed and comments have been received from the National Treasury, according to the financial statement.
However, stakeholders, including aircraft operators who are currently occupying the airport and the general public, said they were not informed about the public participation process.
Shontel de Boer, Durban North Ward councillor, said she had not heard of any public participation process that took place.
She maintained that the community was strongly against the redevelopment of the airport, citing strained infrastructure and congested traffic on the M4.
“Things have been quiet about this project since it was rejected by residents. We have heard that the public participation has been completed, but I have no idea who participated in those processes.
The community had voiced their opinions previously under the leadership of the former councillor and there was a petition against the project that was submitted to the council,” said de Boer.
Long-time tenant at the Virgina airport, Daryl Mann, owner of Aero Natal, which operates five hangars at the airport, said he had not participated in any public participation processes.
Mann had indicated that he was prepared to take the matter to court should the City ask them to relocate.
“We are not against any development but we have been asking the City about alternative places which they have not spoken about.
The City complained about the airport not bringing enough money for it while it was never made to make money for the City.
The City refused to offer aircraft operators leases which has affected many businesses.
This is the perfect place for general aviation and the transformation of the industry, but the City is pushing for the redevelopment because somebody has promised to pay big money for it.
We are also aware that the community around these areas would not want development. There are enough malls and residential places here. We will wait for the next development and take action where necessary,” said Mann.
Phillip Sithole, the City's deputy manager for economic development, confirmed that the process has been finalised but would not share the reaction from the public.
"The report about the public participation process will be presented before the council, I cannot comment on it at the moment. The process was transparent and I cannot comment about those who may have not seen it," said Sithole.