GEORGE NEWS - The Garden Garden Route Action Group (Gardag) is among those who are concerned over the impact of the proposed university precinct development at the Garden Route Dam.
George Municipality is in the process of rezoning the land (remainder of erf 464) to allow for a commercial waterfront, residential and tertiary educational development.
The cut-off date for comment on the pre-application draft scoping report by Sharples Environmental Services (SES), that is doing the environmental impact assessment, has been extended from 20 July to 21 August.
In its comment submitted to SES, Gardag says the development will place additional strain on water resources on top of seven other planned developments (the Crocodile Farm, land adjacent to Mount View, King George social housing development, Horse Riding Club land near the mall, Groenkloof expansions, future expansion of Kraaibosch, and housing at Pacaltsdorp).
Also, George Municipality has indicated that it will have to cut its budget by R80-million because of the economic climate and Covid-19, which will aggravate existing budgetary constraints on bulk services maintenance.
Sewage leakages into the Kat River, one of the rivers feeding the dam, give the impression that the municipality is not able to maintain present sewer networks, "let alone a brand new one at the Garden Route Dam".
"Aquatic experts have warned about the poor river health. SES' own aquatic expert refers to the presence of sewage in the Kat River and has given it a D and F rating," reads Gardag's statement.
"The risk of pollution is significantly increased by allowing the commercial component to be constructed right on the dam without a buffer riparian zone. Studies by NMU have also shown dire predictions about how soon the city will run out of water at the current growth rate.
"The Breede-Gouritz Water Management Agency (BGCMA) also wants a review of water availability in the region done, based on existing information that takes the current harsh economic realities into consideration.
"They say that the current water supply situation in the Garden Route area is critical as a result of severe droughts."
Traffic load, visual impact
Dean Chandler, a concerned resident in Eden, raises concerns about an excessive increase in traffic load and congestion on suburban roads that are already overburdened during peak times, the impact on water supply and solid waste management.
He also wants to know what capacity the city’s existing landfill and solid waste disposal sites have to accommodate the increased pressure from this and other developments.
He says the potential visual impact and noise disturbance that it will have on the peaceful suburbs of Eden and Loerie Park and the resulting potential negative impact on property values that could result is another concern.
"With reference to the draft proposed rezoning document as prepared by Aurecon, the extent of the development as illustrated in this report is substantially more impactive on these suburbs than that illustrated in the Sharples EIA submission. It is quite clear that the intentions are quite different.
"The proposal per Aurecon impacts substantially more on the existing suburbs of Eden and Loerie Park. There is already a huge outcry from the local residents in this regard and this must be re-addressed."
(Read his letter below)
Concerns to be addressed
Betsy Ditcham of SES said that there are a number of opportunities for interested and affected parties (I&APs) to comment on the proposal. "A large amount of time and effort have gone into preparing the proposal and reports and investigating the impacts of the proposal on the receiving environment, and we want those who may have comments to raise their issues of concern in order for us to address them in a comprehensive manner."
The George Municipality in a statement says there are "several misleading rumours and distorted information" being circulated regarding the development proposals for the land south of the Garden Route Dam. Read the municipality's statement here.
John Sharples from Sharples Environmental Services commented as follows:
We would encourage all Interested and Affected Parties to thoroughly read the reports on the project. More than 1000 hours of professional time has been spent on developing the proposal and writing reports.
Unfortunately due to the complex nature of approvals and Authorisations a cursory look at the documents and reports will not give one the whole picture.
Much has been written in the documents and reports about the serious attempt to ensure the area remains not only an asset to the whole population of George but also becomes a more formalised area for recreation and relaxation. We are concerned that there seems to be a notion that the EIA process can be influenced by voting either yes or no. This is not the case. The EIA process is looking for issues of concern so that these can be addressed. Only formally submitted comments and concerns can be addressed, while informal “votes” have no real value in determining the impacts of the development proposal.
We are concerned that the opportunities to add value to the process are going to be lost. The social and economic benefits of a University / College precinct are huge and will benefit the whole population or George. Likewise the environment needs to be protected. The residents of George as a whole need to take ownership of open spaces and support the Municipality in keeping them safe and clean and usable. This is an opportunity to get involved in the legislative processes but it is imperative that I&APS read through the reports, understand the proposals and raise issues of concern which can be addressed. Shouting loudly, voting yes or no and spreading fake news is not going to have any impact on the legislative processes.
DEAN CHANDLER'S LETTER
Dean Chandler, George:
I am not opposed to proposed development at the Garden Route Dam, in fact quite the contrary. However, there are serious concerns raised with conflicting information which I believe needs to be carefully addressed.
Some of my concerns are:
1. Excessive increase in traffic load and congestion on existing suburban roads. These roads are already over-burdened during peak times. Refer to the Saasveld / Knysna road and Saasveld Glenwood road intersections. Meyer and Stander streets are both narrow roads which currently do not even allow for passing traffic if there are stationary parked cars on one or both sides of these roads. It is understood that a traffic impact assessment is to be carried out but there will be a substantial infrastructure upgrade required to accommodate this and one has to wonder if this will ever be fully implemented.
2. Impact on water supply. It took some 15 years or so for the raising of the existing level of the Garden Route dam wall and spillway to be completed so this has barely caught up with the ever increasing demand on this resource. The dam has also been silted up over the years so the capacity is also less than it potentially used to be.
3. Impact on solid waste management. What capacity does the city’s existing landfill and solid waste disposal sites have to accommodate the increased pressure from this and other developments?
4. Proximity of development to the region’s sustainable drinking water supply and the negative impact that such a development will have in terms of pollution of this water source.
5. The potential visual impact and noise disturbance that this development will have on the existing peaceful suburbs of Eden and Loerie Park and the resulting potential negative impact on property values that could result. With reference to the draft proposed rezoning document as prepared by Aurecon, the extent of the development as illustrated in this report is substantially more impactive on these suburbs than that illustrated in the Sharples EIA submission. It is quite clear that the intentions are quite different.
The proposal per Aurecon impacts substantially more on the existing suburbs of Eden and Loerie Park. There is already a huge outcry from the local residents in this regard and this must be re-addressed. It is very concerning that two approval processes/applications from two different consultants (Sharples and Aurecon) run with contradictory information that could have a serious impact.
6. The land use allocation of the Sharples and Aurecon reports differ significantly in that the latter has 15 hectares (29%) more developed area i.e. 15ha (29%) less public open space. One has to question why the environmental impact assessment being carried out is so different from the draft rezoning application. This is deeply concerning.
7. Why a university/research institute/academy? Why compete economically with the existing Saasveld campus of NMMU which is currently under-resourced, offering only limited courses and students.
I am very supportive of the concept of George becoming an academic hub for the Southern Cape. However, this should be done in a sustainable and complementary manner.
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- Land at Garden Route dam to be rezoned
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