A proposal to rezone a park between Sandile Thusi and Montpelier Roads in Morningside, which currently serves as one of Durban’s green lung areas and is located adjacent to the old reservoir property, has been met with resistance, reports Berea Mail.
Civic organisation Save Our Berea (SOB) has warned that local parks appeared to be under threat, and said the proposed rezoning would have a negative effect on proposed plans to develop the reservoir site into a multimillion-rand high-end development that would not only revitalise the area, but also the park.
Co-founders of SOB, Kevin Dunkley and Cheryl Johnson, said the proposal was another example of how Durban’s green spaces and public park areas were under threat. They are urging residents to take a stand against the proposed rezoning and the abuse of parks by local businesses and to reclaim them for the communities they are meant to serve.
“The development proposed for the reservoir site will see the whole area come alive. If the area is rezoned for mixed use, the park will be taken away and the reservoir site, which is a valuable Victorian building and needs to be celebrated and maintained, will be fenced off,” said Johnson.
“Save Our Berea is monitoring the situation regarding this land and will keep the community informed about the proposed rezoning, as there will be a chance for public participation. We are against rezoning and the loss of the green space, which is used by the Zionists and should be a place where children can play.”
Resident Nicky Burke has also voiced her objection to the rezoning of the park, which she said should be a nice, clean and safe area which could be utilised by the community.
“There is so much that can be done in the park and should be a place children can enjoy. Development at the reservoir site would be welcomed as on a daily basis people break into the reservoir grounds and have stolen scrap and used the reservoir to shelter in and as a place to build fires.
“It is the broken window syndrome – ugly, derelict spaces attract negative elements,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ward 27 councillor Martin Meyer said he was not aware of any plans to rezone the park in Montpelier Road, and that he would investigate.
“When I have more information available, I will notify residents through the media. I feel strongly that green areas must be protected,” he said.
Johnson and Dunkley said a pattern was developing where local parks and green spaces were being abused by businesses while the city turned a blind eye.
The park in Charles Henwood Road, Mayville, is currently being used by contractors building at Capital Hospital to store building equipment.
This has been done without any consultation with local residents. At Meyrick Bennett Park in Glenwood, there is a proposal on the table to make temporary use of a portion of the park for Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital staff parking while upgrades to the hospital are underway.
A Mayville resident, who asked not to be named, said the park in Charles Henwood Road had become an eyesore since being taken over by building contractors.
“It is full of rubble and building equipment and is a disgusting mess. We have had an increase in the number of cockroaches and rats, which is a health issue, and I have to look at it every day from my home. I have made 20 calls to different people and have been told they are looking into it, but I am tired of it. I don’t know how Parks could let them do this,” she said.
In response, attorney Vaneshree Moodley, the Group Legal Advisor, said Conforth Investments (Pty) Ltd had obtained the necessary permission from the department of parks and recreation and the relevant authorities were aware of the status of the construction.
“Conforth Investments (Pty) Ltd has undertaken to restore and improve the park at its cost on completion of construction. Construction will be completed in approximately three months from now, and the upgrade to the park will commence thereafter,” she said.
Moodley said while they understood that the residents were being affected by the construction, they thanked them for their patience and indulgence during this period.
eThekwini Municipality’s Sherelle Whitaker confirmed that the hospital had requested and received permission from Parks to house its building contractor on a portion of the park, however, this private contractor had since become insolvent.
“The due legal process needs to be followed before the building equipment can be removed. We apologise for the inconvenience,” she said.
The proposal for staff parking at Meyrick Bennett Park has also angered neighbouring residents, who said they had not been informed of the project, and had only become aware of the proposed parking lot when they saw the area in the park being fenced off and parking bays marked out on the grass.
A meeting was held at the end of January with residents, Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital management, contractors and eThekwini’s Parks officials, during which the community expressed its concerns.
Residents said the park and building on the property had been left for NPO Trust for Children and for the community, and raised concerns that included the potential damage to the roots of trees by vehicles, the state of the ground as a result of the traffic, especially through the rainy season, and the fact that there was no guarantee that the park would be reinstated to its current state once the parking lot was no longer needed.
A follow-up meeting is to be held with residents once the contractor finalises dates for the meeting.