River Club development ‘cannot be dealt with behind closed doors’

NEWS | By Marvin Charles | Oct 27, 2020

Cape Town – Lobby groups who have been fighting to preserve the River Club in Observatory have now taken up their fight with the City for giving approval to the Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT). Housing advocacy group Ndifuna Ukwazi lodged an appeal against the approval.

Ndifuna Ukwazi Attorney Jonty Cogger said: “Our appeal questions whether private negotiations should not have been open to the public.

“The struggle of landlessness and inequality is a common experience of the majority of South Africans.

“The manner in which this manifests and resurfaces in private land development cannot be dealt with behind closed doors.”

Cogger said:“We therefore call on the mayor as the appeal authority in development approvals to re-open the public participation process so that everyone can comment on the revised proposals for the River Club,” he said.

According to the City, so far three objections have been lodged. The MPT approved the rezoning for the R4billion redevelopment in September.

The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust has proposed the construction of several 10-storey buildings and 11.7 hectares of building in the middle of a 100-year-old flood plain. Estimated to cost R4bn, the project will include residential, retail and commercial components, a hotel, offices, conference centre and schools.

Spokesperson for the Trust Jody Aufrichtig said: “We are pleased that after considering our detailed and extensive rezoning application the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal has given the green light for the River Club redevelopment.

“The project will provide a range of socio-economic benefits to the people of Cape Town and the province including 5239 critical construction jobs; addressing the injustices of apartheid spatial planning. Construction is expected to start in early 2021.”

The City’s spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the appeal period ended yesterday, “The City’s Planning Appeals Advisory Panel (Paap) will consider all appeals pertaining to the Municipal Planning Tribunal’s decision to approve the said rezoning of the River Club development.

“Once this process has been concluded, the Paap will make a recommendation to the City’s Executive Mayor, who is the final appeals authority in terms of the City of Cape Town’s Municipal Planning by-law.”

Meanwhile, deliberations are underway on the environmental authorisation that was granted by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning last month.

Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell’s spokesperson, James-Brent Styan, said: “21 appeals against the Environmental Authorisation were granted.

“MEC Bredell, as the Competent Authority, will now consider the appeals in terms of the relevant appeals process. At this stage, we cannot yet provide a time-frame of when minister Bredell will be making his final decision.”

Cape Argus