Cape Town – The River Club’s proposed redevelopment has entered the final straight before the bulldozers move on to the land.
The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) has given the go-ahead for the redevelopment. It granted the environmental authorisation after the developer followed the prescribed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and requisite public participation.
Department head of communication Rudolf van Jaarsveldt said: “The department, as the competent authority, has only granted the environmental authorisation, in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No107 of 1998) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2014 (as amended). The developer still has to comply with all other legislative application requirements and obtain all other relevant approvals.”
The green light comes after Heritage Western Cape (HWC) slammed the brakes on a proposal by the First Nations’ bodies and civic and civil society organisations to have the Two Rivers Urban Park at The River Club, in Observatory, declared a provincial heritage site. The Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust has proposed the construction of several 10-storey buildings and 11.7 hectares of building, in the middle of a 100-year-old flood plain.
Estimated to cost R4billion, the project will include residential, retail and commercial components, a hotel, offices, conference centre and schools.
The Trust’s Jody Aufrichtig said: “It will create over 6000 direct jobs, including 5239 jobs during the construction phase.”
He said 20% of the development will be allocated for residential use, of which one fifth will be dedicated to developer-subsidised inclusionary housing.
But the decision has left objectors frothing. For seven years, the community of Observatory has been objecting to plans to redevelop the River Club.
Goringhaicona Khoena Council supreme high commissioner Tauriq Jenkins said: “The decision prompts the need for deeper public and institutional scrutiny as to why this decision has been taken, in complete contradiction to the evidence presented to DEADP and the recognition of the site by HWC, as such heritage is of importance as to warrant heritage protection.”
He said the decision by the department was “morally reprehensible”.
“This presents a clear and present threat to the environmental and intensely significant historical heritage of the area,” Jenkins said.
Two Rivers Urban Park Association chairperson Marc Turok said: “All they have done is give the Basic Assessment Report Environmental Authorisation hypothetically – disregarding all the things not taken into account, all the objections, and all the technical difficulties to get such a bad idea approved, particularly in the light of the heritage issues relating to the site. They have based their assessment on a flawed Heritage Impact Assessment.”