Private school plans for Noordhoek

The area proposed for the school.

The face of Noordhoek may yet change, with the renewed proposal to develop a private school in the area.

And so would the breeding area of the endangered western leopard toad, says Suzi J’Kul of ToadNuts, the environmental group dedicated to preserving the toads.

The City of Cape Town has received a land-use application for rezoning and departures that would clear the way for a Generations school on the corner of Silvermine Road and Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Bluegreen Planning + Design/Propgen Proprietary Limited lodged the proposal and the objection date is Saturday March 30.

The application is to rezone the property from Rural to Community Zone 1 (CO1). The school would cater to 600 children, from pre-primary to high school grades, and 50 staff.

The application is also to permit a carriageway crossing to be 25.9m in lieu of 8m wide. It seeks to deviate from the Southern District Plan to allow an alternative land use on the property other than the recommended rural use or low-density residential development.

The original proposal in 2017 drew an outcry from ToadNuts.

This has not changed.

ToadNuts says the proposed school will be in the middle of a toad migratory route.

“The increased volume of traffic will have an extremely heavy impact on the migrating toads as well the toads that are breeding in the ponds on the property, and the adjacent four ponds next door,” Ms J’Kul said.

ToadNuts says it has been saving toads on Silvermine Road for the past 12 years.

“From our experience, statistics and experience on the roads for the past decade, the location of the school has shown to be the biggest hot spot on the Silvermine migratory route,” Ms J’Kul said.

No measures had been put in place along Silvermine and Noordhoek Main roads to save toads migrating to and from the proposed site of the school, she said.

Should the school – as well as the Houmoed Extension – go ahead, the resulting traffic would be very bad news for the toads, she said.

“This will lead the species very close to extinction.”

The plans for the school include a playing field and a courtyard as well as habitat areas and migration paths for the western leopard toads. The initial proposal in 2017 said the school would have a rustic design with solar power, water catchment and thermal bricks. And foundations would be laid using a method to limit soil disturbance and long term sub-surface water-flow patterns.

The Noordhoek Ratepayers’ Association (NRPA) opposes the application. Together with the Noordhoek Environmental Group (NEAG), it is reviewing the latest proposal and will add or amend previous comments. The overall concern remains that it is not the appropriate location for a school and that it does not fit with the community’s vision for Noordhoek 2030. The association says the site is on an important scenic route that is an entrance to a world heritage site.

Brad Bing, chairman of the NPRA, said a school of such size was too high density a development with serious environmental threats and community disadvantages. And it would threaten the look and feel of Noordhoek. “Light, traffic and noise pollution that come with this type of development will have a very negative impact on animals in the area. The latest research has shown that the erosion of night-time by the introduction of artificial lighting (school lights, vehicle headlights) constitutes a profound pressure on the natural environment,” he said.

And the associated noise pollution and loss of habitat would threaten local fauna, some of it endangered.

Furthermore, he said the original size of the land was unsuitable for a school, with a density total of 33.33 m2 per student.

“Once again, this is clearly not treading lightly and not the ideal good neighbour as it will have a ripple effect on the entire Noordhoek community,” he said.

Mr Bing said the association’s own market research found there was no need for the school in Noordhoek, as the Generations school at Imhoff had filled the gap for private schooling in the area.

“Their previous traffic study indicated a total incoming vehicle holding capacity of only 22 vehicles dropping off students. Based on calculations it will be necessary for five students to be offloaded in the school every minute during peak hour. This is completely unreasonable,” he said.

“The NRPA wants to stress that they do not oppose a school application in the correct location built for the needs of children living in Noordhoek. Noordhoek has a huge equestrian culture, one trusts this will be taken into consideration,” he said.

KHULA Environmental Consultants were appointed by Propgen as the independent environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) to undertake the basic assessment process.

The environmental impact assessment included a freshwater specialist to look at the wetlands and a fauna specialist to examine the situation with regards to the western leopard toad.

The report concluded with the recommendation of the specialist that authorisation for the development be granted, from a freshwater ecological perspective, provided that all essential mitigation measures listed – including the fauna specialist’s report – were strictly adhered to.

Project manager for Generation Schools, Mark Germond, was approached for comment but was not available at the time of going to print.