Province has approved a road extension through a Noordhoek wetland – a move environmentalists say is “catastrophic”.
The public has until Wednesday January 15 to appeal against the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning’s (DEADP) decision to extend Houmoed Avenue.
Approval was granted on Tuesday December 3.
The road, which would link Noordhoek Main Road and Lekkerwater Road, has been on ice for several years while DEADP awaited the outcome of an environmental impact assessment, which, according to the department’s approval notice, included the opinions of independent wetlands experts (“Road extension bad news for toads,” Echo, October 12, 2017).
Mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said work could only start on the road once all the approvals had been granted and that it would be ideal for phase one and two to be done simultaneously.
Phase two includes raising the wetland above sea level for the provision of housing and utilities. The upgrade of the Masiphumelele informal settlement was part of that phase-two application, which had recently been amended and resubmitted to DEADP for a decision.
Ms Purchase said the road would make it easier for law enforcement to reach Masiphumelele, and it would ease traffic, as the City anticipated needing more road capacity to deal with increased traffic between Kommetjie and the Noordhoek/Sun Valley areas, following upgrades of Ou Kaapse Weg and Kommetjie Road.
“The capacity provided by the proposed two-lane Houmoed Avenue is required to support weekday commuter demands once vacant land in the area has been developed,” she said.
However,environmentalists and a civic group disagree. The co-founder of Toadnuts, Alison Faraday, said they had been fighting against the Houmoed Avenue extension for the past 18 months and were very disappointed that DEADP had given the go-ahead for a road, which, she said, would do little to ease traffic congestion but have a “catastrophic” effect on the wetland.
The road, she said, would go through the only permanent fresh-water bodies in the Noordhoek wetlands and would devastate local biodiversity. No amount of “mitigation” could offset the damage the road would cause.
“As the local experts in the conservation of western leopard toads in the far south, we are acutely aware of the fluctuation of this species due to environmental factors. The biggest concern for toads is the ongoing urbanisation of habitat. Roads impede the toads’ ability to move to and from the ponds in which they breed, causing huge numbers of toads to be killed annually during the breeding migration,” she said.
Ms Faraday said the Houmoed Avenue extension would effectively remove three critical breeding ponds from the endangered western leopard toad’s habitat – the last straw for its survival in the area.
Also, a species thought to be extinct – the critically endangered Cape platanna – had been found by a Toadnuts volunteer in Lake Michelle area while out on a regular patrol. That suggested there were probably more species to be found in the area, and it was worrying that DEADP did not feel the discovery was significant enough to warrant a full amphibian study, she said.
Ms Faraday said Toadnuts planned to appeal the decision.
The chairman of the Sunnydale Ratepayers’ Association (SRA), Chris Dooner, said the SRA had mixed feelings about the Houmoed Avenue extension – on one hand, it was seen as disadvantageous to parts of the wetland and homes along the proposed route while on the other it would give more direct access to the Longbeach and Sun Valley malls, especially thousands of pedestrians from Masiphumelele.
However, he said, experience had shown there would be those who would see the new route as a short-cut out of the area, leading to more traffic on Buller Louw and Noordhoek Main roads and at the intersections with Ou Kaapseweg.
“There is also an increased possibility that additional access, or escape, will be provided for those with nefarious intent in the Milkwood Park area,” he said.
He also feared the road extension would increase traffic at the Lekkerwater/Kommetjie roads intersection.
“It is already difficult to exit from Lekkerwater Road, especially when turning right into Kommetjie Road, and this can expect to worsen as more vehicles use Lekkerwater Road. Mitigation of the impact on both the intersection and Lekkerwater Road itself will have to be addressed during the planning of phase one.”
The SRA would monitor planning, construction and commissioning activities to ensure conditions in the notice were complied with, he said.
To find out more about saving the western leopard toad, contact Ms Faraday at Alison@leopardstone.co.za or 082 7716232.