GEORGE NEWS - The final dismissal of the Mediclinic application to build their new hospital in George on the old sawmill site on the eastern outskirts of the city has elicited some spirited comments on the George Herald Facebook page.
The disapproval of the site is in sharp contrast to the hearty welcome George Municipality gave the mega Sallywood development in the same area.
Densification and optimum usage of existing infrastructure inside the urban edge are the main reasons the municipality holds forth for not budging on the Mediclinic preferred site and not heeding the appeals lodged by the developer, Magnolia Ridge Properties. Many hectares of land are still available within the urban edge and George Municipality's riding club land on Knysna Road is being rezoned to accommodate a regional hospital.
However, Facebookers questioned the logic behind the municipality's reasoning for supporting the massive Sallywood project, which is envisioned to become home to about 100 000 people, while rejecting the proposed Mediclinic site, just a stone's throw from Sallywood.
Commenting to the newspaper, developer of Magnolia Ridge Arno de Vos said the municipality's reasons for turning down their application do not hold water. "Our property was within the urban edge since 2007 and up to 2013, but taken out without proper reason or any evidence that the urban edge must be retracted at the sawmill site. Services are available there, as confirmed by the municipality.
"Access and roads as per the approved George Roads Master Plan are being created as the area grows, but in its decision-making the municipality nullifies its own plan. There has been huge expansion here in the past five years, done by legitimate developers on behalf of the municipality. While the Roads Master Plan is implemented, indicating a road running from Groenkloof Road to the Welgelegen N2 circle, the municipality in its objections maintains that the public bus service cannot be extended to this area.
"It also claims the sawmill site is further away from the broader community, while it has been proven to be closer than the current hospital position. We agree with them that land is available within the urban edge, but it is not ready and suitable for a R700-million regional hospital."
"Most of this land is in the ownership of George Municipality and one private developer. Their concern about the impact on the George CBD is also not applicable as the existing hospital building will be taken up by new investors."
De Vos said the land where Sallywood has been approved has no available services, no access to major roads, no public bus service and it is further away from the community. "What about the impact on the CBD of this proposed development as well as Eden Meander's new office park next to the N2? It seems different rules apply to different applicants and due to a few powerful people's involvement in George, a regional private hospital opportunity might be lost. How ludicrous is it that these powerful people and a few decision-makers in the municipality manipulate an international group to tell them where to invest R700-million.
"The sawmill site is ideal to serve not only George, but the bigger Southern Cape. No wonder the DA states that George is regarded as one of the most troublesome DA municipalities in the country."
Sallywood project manager Fred Brown said the same development rights obtained by Destiny Africa in 2009 are still applicable to Sallywood.
"We obtained a guide plan amendment approval before 2009 already, and the town planning as well as environmental approvals in 2009. A hospital precinct was part of our development from the very beginning."
Mediclinic George manager Kassie Karstens declined to comment, but said they are "working on a solution".
Objections from other developers
According to documents in the Mediclinic application, objections to the Mediclinic application were received from two other developers.
Peter Merrington objected on behalf of Fynbos Road Hole Investments, citing available land within the Eden Meander development area as reason. The other objection was from Rainbow Place Properties (developers of Eden Meander and the recently opened Eden Business Park) that has appropriately zoned land available. Fynbos Road Hole Investments did not respond to requests for comment and Chris Roodt of Rainbow Place Properties said they do not want to comment on "wild allegations with no substance".
Comment from George Municipality is being awaited.
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