City ‘back-pedals’ on roads decision

The matter of road access to the proposed electricity depot at the Silverglades end of the sportsfields saw one of the most concerted united citizen objections in the Fish Hoek valley over the past two years.

Now the City has been accused of “back-pedalling” on their promises after the provincial government granted permission to build roads exactly where the residents don’t want them.

The electricity depot is to be built adjoining the existing municipal depot on the Silverglades side of the sportsfields, a significantly larger building than the existing depot. Objectors first requested that the electricity depot rather be built in a more suitable area, a light industrial area such as Heron Park. Objections then mounted after first the proposal which saw access through an extension of Poplar Road, Silverglades (“Development dismays residents”, Echo May 29 2014), then peaked with a second proposal for an access road off Riverside Road, between the sportsfields and the garden side of a quiet row of Silverglades houses (“City vs residents over depot upgrade”, Echo, October 15 2015).

This is despite the fact that municipal trucks going to the existing muni-cipial depot have been using the gravel track that runs from the Sun Valley side of Kommetjie Road behind the sports fields to the depot (the extension of Harrington Road).

In last year’s Echo article, mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said that the gravel road could not be used because it was not a proclaimed access road and that the Department of Environmental Affairs had issued the instruction that the road be closed .

At a recent Fish Hoek Valley Residents’ and Ratepayers’ meeting, sub-council chairperson Felicity Purchase made an assurance that the two roads would not be built and that the depot would continue using the gravel road.

This followed a meeting between City officials, Ms Purchase and councillor Dave D’Alton, as well as Silverglades resident Jo Goddard who has been co-ordinating efforts objecting to the road proposals. It also follows email assurances from City Engineer Marius van der Westhuizen, head of infrastructure management, which states that until the Fish Hoek bypass is built, “the electricity sub-depot will use the existing gravel road (as is currently the case with the adjacent council facility and its staff). That is what was agreed to by the concerned parties that attended the meeting chaired by Alderman Felicity Purchase.”

Last week on Friday June 10, interested and affected parties (I&APs)were sent the final decision by Guillame Nel Environmental Consultants, which prepared the environmental impact assessment (EIA) on behalf of the City: both roads objected to have been given environmental authorisation by the provincial government.

The environmental authorisation states: “The access road will extend from Poplar Road which runs between the residential area of Silverglades on the eastern side and the sportfield complex on the western side. This proposed access road will eventually connect with Riverside Road situated further south.

“An automated sliding gate for controlled access will be installed. This proposed access road layout will be situated within an existing proclaimed road reserve.

“A vehicular circle ending will be situated further west on Harrington Road, to ensure that the general public cannot access the proposed Poplar Road extension via Harrington Road to gain access between Kommetjie Main Road and Riverside Road. Vehicular parking bays will be situated at the Harrington Road closing circle in order for the general public to utilise the area for recreation.”

Accompanying the notice is a map which shows a bright red line where a road goes from Riverside Road, between the back row of houses and the Silverglades sportsfield, linking up with the existing Poplar Road. Another new road is shown going off at right angles from Poplar Road, to the depot, making Poplar Road a ring road around Silverglades.

Resident Trish Donmall is not impressed, writing to the environmental consultants saying she is “distressed and disturbed”.

“How is it possible that despite assurances from Marius van der Westhuizen, Dave D’Alton and Felicity Purchase that the proposed road will not run up the back of Silverglades and the sports field that it is still included.

“I find this totally and utterly unbelievable and totally underhand. The proposed road along a so-called proclaimed road that is now actually a deproclaimed road. This was confirmed at the meeting held between officials and residents on March 30 2016 and confirmed by email from Marius van der Westhuizen on May 17.

“To further add insult to injury, I see that appeals are also not able to be lodged via email but need to lodged either by post, fax or in person. Bearing in mind that I am sure a large percentage of those that are registered as affected parties no doubt work, you are forcing people to have to take time off work to come and lodge their complaint. With the current state of our postal service this is not a viable option. Add to this the fact that it takes on average two hours plus to reach Cape Town from Fish Hoek due to ongoing roadworks, this is a very underhand manner to conduct this appeals process in this modern day.”

It’s not our fault, says Mr Sonnenberg.

“In terms of this development, the City of Cape Town is bound to comply with the recommendations of the EIA practitioner. As such, we were not in a position to dictate where the access road would be situated.

We can, however, assure residents that any access road will be for the exclusive use of municipal vehicles, which will minimise thoroughfare.

“The objections process is currently under way and residents can make use of this via prescribed channels. Guidelines for the objections process, including how objections can be submitted, are set by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. As such they should be contacted in this regard.”

“We’re not giving up,” said Ms Goddard who sees this as yet another ex-ample of an inadequate EIA process.

“Notification of the recent final decision to build the road in front of our properties was given to us one week after the decision was made, thus shortening the time we have to start the appeal process – another infringement of our rights.

“It also appears that the Western Cape government’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, which made the final decision to authorise the access road, will also be the arbiter of the appeals process, thus acting as both judge and executioner. I therefore wonder whether the appeal process will be impartial. Nevertheless, we must try.”

Ms Goddard said she had, on Monday June 13, handed over an intention to appeal and had obtained appeal forms for distribution to interested and affected parties. “I urge all I&APs to support the appeal, as this is our last chance to try to stop the construction of the road,” she said.