City halts construction of small deck at Brass Bell

The children’s pool area where the small deck was being built.

The City of Cape Town has instructed the Brass Bell to cease construction of a small deck at the children’s tidal pool with immediate effect.

On Sunday April 3 a group of about 80 people protested outside the popular Kalk Bay restaurant to object to the construction of a deck that they claim will restrict public access to the tidal pool.

Protesters carried placards saying: “Give back our beach” and “People before profits”, among others.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the City and the national Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) visited the site on Wednesday March 30, and found that construction had taken place within 100 metres of the high water mark, which requires environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).

The Brass Bell leases the land – on which the deck is being built – from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), and Mr Andrews said the matter had to be discussed with Prasa as well.

Brass Bell owner Tony White said the 3m x 7m deck would have been on the same level as the sand and the same colour.

“I had no idea that an unobtrusive deck that size would need formal approval by Prasa. I now know this to be the case and will not proceed with the deck unless I have formal approval,” he said.

The deck would have provided patrons with an area to sunbathe without getting covered in sea sand, he said.

The construction of decks at the restaurant has long been a contentious issue, especially after Mr White installed a deck right onto the beach area at the tidal pools without any public participation in 2012.

At the time, Kalk Bay residents feared that the public’s access to the beach would be restricted with the new seating area on the deck.

Mr White later added another deck with a roller-shutter door which, at the time, he claimed was to protect his assets at night.

He said the public could access the beach through the shutter door and decks from early morning until after midnight when the restaurant closed, (“Brass Bell beach blues,” Echo, May 30, 2013).

At the time, the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning investigated the matter and it found Mr White to be in contravention of Nema and that he had to get environmental authorisation to install the decks. He was told by the department that should authorisation not be obtained, the decks would have to be removed.

He said the necessary permissions were obtained and the decks were never demolished. “They remain there to this day providing patrons with a very popular and well-loved amenity.”

According to protesters, construction of the small deck had already started and they alleged that holes had been dug and that brickwork had been in place in some areas.

During the Echo’s visit on Monday April 4, there was no sign of any construction.

The organisers of the protest, activists Faez Poggenpoel and Traci Kwaai, said they were against the alleged illegal land usage by the Brass Bell owner on Prasa land.

In a later statement, Mr Poggenpoel and Ms Kwaai claimed the restaurant had built illegally on Prasa-owned land for more than 50 years to extend its footprint and restrict access to public pools.

“The Kalk Bay pools were built by the indigenous people in the area to use as fish traps since settlers first moved into this area in the 1700s,” their statement said.

Mr White said that when he had moved to Kalk Bay 55 years ago, the children’s pool area had been “in a sorry state of neglect and remained so” until he had taken over the lease of the area in 2011.

“The community showed no interest in the area. The valves letting in the seawater did not work and a homeless couple lived in the area for several months. Since the Brass Bell has taken over the area, it has been patronised by thousands of patrons who now enjoy this amenity,” he said.

Mr White said Kalk Bay was a “very special suburb with a long history”.

“I have lived here permanently since 1981 and am very aware that any construction must be done in a sensitive manner, and I thought that the deck would have been an improvement. As far as I am aware, only a few members of the Kalk Bay community have objected to the deck. I have engaged with some of these objectors, and none of them could give me a reasonable explanation for their objection,” he said.

Prasa spokeswoman Nana Zenani confirmed that the Brass Bell leased the property from Prasa.

“We were not involved in the decision to expand the deck, but we understand that they have halted construction,” she said.