Bid to halt Chapman's Peak construction falls flat

Chapman's Peak Drive seen before the upgrade and change to a toll road which was finished towards the end of 2002. (AP)

Chapman's Peak Drive seen before the upgrade and change to a toll road which was finished towards the end of 2002. (AP)

Judge Bennie Griesel said no order had been made as to costs.

The Hout Bay Residents’ Association and the Habitat Council had argued that provincial premier Helen Zille and provincial transport minister Robin Carlisle did not receive proper environmental authorisation to build the plaza as required by the Protected Areas Act.

Both maintained that authorisation was granted under previous environmental legislation.

The respondents in the matter were Entilini, of which Murray and Roberts is a senior partner, SANParks, Zille, Carlisle and Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Picnic spot
The most prominent complaint was the use of park land for the plaza. But earlier this year the chief executive officer of the South African National Parks (SANParks), David Mabunda, was unapologetic about giving permission to build an office block on park land, which has glorious sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and is widely considered one of the best picnic spots in the country.

“The toll gate project was a subject of a legitimate environmental impact assessment process in which interested and affected parties, including SANParks, were afforded an opportunity to participate and state their side of the story for or against the development.

After careful consideration of all submissions, the national department of water and environmental affairs issued a record of decision giving the development a nod to proceed,” he said.

“SANParks’s actions in this matter should be seen and understood in this context.”

Mabunda said SANParks did not intend to become an “activist” organisation that is “blindly opposed” to development that seeks to benefit the people of the Western Cape and elsewhere in the country.

Ecological integrity
“It is a considered view of the SANParks board that this toll gate development, as per the approved record of decision, does not threaten the ecological integrity of Table Mountain National Park,” he said.

Asked whether he had followed all the processes, Mabunda said he had not erred in his decision.

“Yes, SANParks acted within its legal mandate and rights in line with the prescripts of the National Environment Management Act: Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003 [as amended] and international best practice,” he said.

Mabunda later sent the Mail & Guardian photographs of the cordoned off building site. “This is already a disturbed site due to road-cutting activities during the construction of the road previously and I see no biodiversity of value next to the road,” he said.

“I think it was a good decision by the Western Cape government to improve the road in order to reduce accidents and deaths and that to me is acting in the interests of the public.
There is no way the construction on this site could impact negatively on the biodiversity of the park.”

Benefit
But not everybody agrees with Mabunda’s view.

Len Swimmer, chairperson of the Hout Bay Residents’ Association, disagreed.

“Nobody is allowed to build in a national park. What is the benefit to the public?” he said.

“We also don’t need four lanes for the toll. The existing toll booths are just fine and should be left as they are.” – Additional reporting by Sapa

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