The controversial R4 billion small-boat harbour development in Plettenberg Bay is off the table after the developer failed to meet the deadline for resubmission of the project’s scoping report.
The Knysna-Plett Herald reports the provincial department of environmental affairs and development planning informed stakeholders last week that Western Cape Marina Investments had not resubmitted its scoping report by July 4, and therefore, developers who wished to continue with the development would have to submit a new application in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of 2014.
The project – earmarked for the town’s Piesang river estuary and Central beach – was set to include 482 residential units, 1 343m2 of office space, a 110-room five-star hotel, mansions, 8 700m2 of retail space, a plaza, a yacht club and more than 2 000 parking bays.
The initial scoping report was rejected by the department more than two years ago, but after two appeals by the developer to submit an amended and compliant report for the development, the department set a new deadline for the re-submission of the report in January this year. The extension came with a heavy emphasis on establishing a thorough public participation process should the development reach the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stage.
The department, through MEC Anton Bredell, also instructed developers to include several aspects in its EIA, including a description of all other alternatives investigated, a market demand study and the results of an investigation of the development setback line as well as the 5m contour line.
This deadline lapsed earlier this month.
Developer Peter Ahern had not yet responded to Knysna-Plett Herald’s queries about future plans.
The proposal elicited massive opposition from ratepayers and visitors, who in 2015 formed a human “no” sign on Central beach, and prompted locals to establish the Save Plett Alliance – a committee established to oppose the development – and appoint a legal team to protect their interests.
Their main objections included the scope of the development being out of kilter with the size of the town as well as the potential impact the development could have on the environment.
In the final scoping report, these concerns were highlighted. These included the potential negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts, including the loss of important estuarine habitats through dredging, and reclaiming portions of the estuary to accommodate the harbour.
The report revealed that this could result in a reduction of diversity of estuarine biota that is dependent on these habitats and impact threatened fish species such as steenbras.
The report also highlighted the potential impact on water quality, which could become contaminated by fuel, oil and concrete during the construction phase of the project. Other environmental concerns also include air and noise pollution.
Findings of the preliminary social investigation done by Dr Anton de Wit suggested that the proposed development would also have positive social impacts. These include socioeconomic benefits as a result of employment creation and empowerment benefits through skills development and training in the construction phase in particular.
It was expected that during the four years of construction more than 960 jobs would be created per year, with about 460 being direct jobs.
De Wit’s study did, however, highlight a number of potential negative impacts, including sociocultural conflicts, intrusion impacts and the resultant decrease in tourism, and indirect impacts on businesses in the construction phase.
– Caxton News Service