A developer is having another go at trying to build a gated housing estate on environmentally sensitive land next to the Silvermine River in Fish Hoek.
Past attempts to develop the Carlton Road site have drawn a flurry of objections from the community.
The Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) objected in August 2019 and again in June 2021 to group housing on the site, which, at 0.75 hectares, is smaller than an average rugby field.
The current application is for 23 double-storey houses in a gated complex called Connemara – in an apparent reference to the barren, coastal region of Ireland – to be built on land the City calls a “critical natural asset” in a 48-page development-management report.
FHVRRA chairman Brian Youngblood said it was a wasteful and fruitless exercise for the City to continue with the planning process until a basic assessment report by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) had been completed.
The application to rezone the site from Transport Zone 2 and Limited Use to General Residential 1 was lodged by a Tyger Valley town-planning firm, Urban Dynamic South Cape, on behalf of the Fish Hoek 11825 Trust, which owns the site.
Urban Dynamic did not respond to questions or provide the owner’s details, but their application says the developer’s vision is for a high-quality, market-related residential development that responds positively to its location.
The site is not a critical biodiversity area and no wetlands are present there and the development of the property fully justifies a site-specific deviation as it is well-located underutilised vacant land, says the application.
However, residents say the site is rich in plant and animal life, and Mr Youngblood said road kerbs were sloped and there were holes in residents’ boundary walls to allow for the movement of endangered western leopard toads. And residents frequently checked ditches in the area to check that small animals had not fallen in.
Mr Youngblood said City policy required an ecological buffer of 75m for wetlands and 500m for the floodplain of a wetland but the development would fall inside the buffer.
He said the rezoning was being applied for in parallel with two environmental applications. DEADP must consider the National Biodiversity Management Act (NEMA) because the development falls within 30m of a wetland. Secondly, the proposed development must also have authorisation from the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) which has to look at the implications of flooding and river contamination from urban development.
“One-in-50-year-flood plans are meaningless to young adults in our valley that have first-hand experience with wetland flooding either in or having threatened their homes,” he said.
Pieter Badenhorst, director of GroenbergEnviro, responsible for submitting the NEMA application on behalf of the owner, said all details were in the documentation, and he was not in a position to comment.
DEADP spokesman Rudolf van Jaarsveldt said they had received an application for environmental authorisation on Tuesday March 8. An appointed environmental assessment practitioner would inform registered interested and affected parties and relevant state departments of their opportunity to provide comment, within a 30-day period, on a draft basic assessment report. A final report would then be submitted to DEADP.
The DWS did not respond when we asked if it had received documentation about the proposed development.
Engela Du Preez, who has lived in Carlton Road since 1997, first heard about the development around 2004 when bulldozers started flattening the site.
“We approached the ratepayers, saw that there was a public-participation process and stopped it for a while when we objected. In the following years, the ground covered with grass, and we thought the development had run out of money and was stopped only for it to surface again in 2019 and 2021,” said Ms Du Preez.
On both occasions, the application was halted because it did not comply with City zoning (“Concern over Carlton Road zoning request,” Echo, August 29, 2019).
Adri Raubenheimer, who lives in Carlton Road across from the wetland, is concerned about the impact on the sewerage system because, she said, there had already been several sewage overflows in the area this year.
“We moved into this house in December because it’s so peaceful. We’ve rescued baby tortoises in our driveway and have seen otters, frogs and western leopard toads,” she said.
Carlton Road resident John Vollmer asks about parking and pedestrians, with Connemara being 2.82m, in lieu of 5m in the past, from the road. The plans show 58 parking bays, 12 of them for visitors.
Kim Kruyshaar, of the Silvermine River Rovers, said the proposed development was unacceptable as it encroached on the Silvermine River floodplain and was near the breeding ponds of the endangered western leopard toad and on the route of the Silvermine Trail.
The closing date for comments is Wednesday July 6. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and copy in the City planning officer: Pierre.Evard@capetown.gov.za