News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Battle to ‘Save Shark Bay’ wages once more

Caitlin Ross

Shark Bay, a mecca for kiteboarders and windsurfers has been fenced off by the owners as they apply for permission to develop 109 residential units. The Langebaan community is strongly opposed to the developement. Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCNAfter two decades of successfully preventing attempts to develop the pristine Shark Bay area, Langebaan residents have once again had to resume their battle to prevent the construction of a 109-unit housing development on the land.

The land, owned by Ricardo Scarpelini of Dormell Properties 391, has for the second time being assessed for a scoping report under his ownership, the first one having last year being declared invalid as it was compiled under Section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), which is less onerous than Section 24, under which opposition groups successfully argued that it should be moved.

Section 24 stipulates that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted, whereas an EIA is not necessary if a development falls within the scope of Section 28.

Doug Jeffery, of Doug Jeffery Environmental Consultants, who are compiling the scoping report, said the findings of the report “will be presented for input from the community before the EIA is carried out”.

Yet convenor of the Langebaan Action Group (LAG) Professor Johan Ackron said what was touted as the final scoping report was released in March, and 1103 objections were registered on the website within four and a half days.

Ackron said Jeffery’s comment seemed to indicate “they’re putting it together as they go along”.

He said since the development was forced to follow Section 24 procedures – something he argues should have been apparent to the consultans – the developer was supposed to restart the application from scratch.

But Ackron said he was concerned that the consultants were doing little more than attempting to “dust off the earlier material generated in the initial flawed process and resubmit it in a new guise”.

He said the LAG “roundly and totally rejected” the scoping report and send a letter to the head of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning stating their rejection.

He said the scoping report did not adhere to NEMA regulations as it did not explore the ‘no development’ option, the consultants had not engaged with any of the opposition groups “not even the Parks Board” in the last three-and-a-half years, and the report did not map out the path and priorities of the EIA.

The development is also opposed by the West Coast Biosphere Reserve, SANParks and the South African National Parks Trust, along with various conservationists.

Their concern is largely underscored by the fact that the Langebaan lagoon, which borders the area to be developed, is listed as a Ramsar protected wetland, the ecology of which is recognized globally as extremely delicate and under threat. Furthermore, the area falls in a natural buffer zone between the urban edge of Langebaan and the West Coast National Park.

But Jeffery remains adamant that anticipation of detrimental effects on the environment is alarmist.
“Objections now are premature. Someone who is already saying impact will be high should wait for our assessment, carried out by specialists,” said Jeffery.

He said while “nobody is denying the sensitivity” of the area, it was the lagoon and not the adjacent area to be developed that was important.

However, the LAG is concerned that “reams and reams” of written objections have not been acknowledged by the environmental consultants. They argue that beachfront houses will extend the urban edge, going against Provincial guidelines, and colliding with the Coastal Management Act which stipulates developments should be 100m away from the high water mark. The proposed houses will be 50m away from the high water mark.

Chairman of the Langebaan Ratepayers Association Jaco Kotze said “Developers just don’t get the message, even when the whole community is against it. For so many years the whole community has said we don’t want it. But every couple of years a new one comes along, with new plans and new tricks.”

Scarpelini’s previous attempt to gain environmental authorization to develop the land (officially mapped as the remainder of the farm Klein Oostewal) under NEMA Section 28 hinged on a zoning certificate issued in 2004 allowing the land to be subdivided, was found to be procedurally incorrect after LAG approached the provincial authorities.

The developer was sent back to the drawing board by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, to restart the process and conduct a proper EIA as required by NEMA.

The company is now proceeding under Section 24, after having to withdraw the initial claim, as instructed by Province, which outlines certain activities on the land would require a full EIA to be done, such as the building of roads.

The previous owner of the land tried and failed for years to begin construction, and sought a declarator from the courts to relieve him of the obligation to carry out environmental assessments of the area, and was granted permission to perform just a scoping report under Section 28. But construction on the land never began, and the owner chose instead to sell the property to Ricardo Scarpelini for R18m.

Prof Ackron said Scarpelini was then under the impression that the allowance would be transferred to him with the property and that he too would be absolved of the obligation to do a full EIA. – West Cape News

Tags: langebaan, saldanha

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