GEORGE NEWS & VIDEO - From a situation of a potentially protracted tug-of-war regarding Victoria Bay, the parties involved have come to agreement about the way forward.
The Victoria Bay Homeowner's Association (HOA) and representatives of the community are now putting their heads together to resolve issues that arose after the HOA in recent weeks initiated earth works at the entrance to the popular beach.
Representatives of the community have been questioning the reasons for the work, fearing that the intention was to limit the public's access to the beach. At a meeting held on Wednesday 12 August, emotions ran high and some harsh words were spoken, leading to the withdrawal of a letter in which the HOA's proposed improvements were set out.
At a follow-up meeting last Wednesday, 26 August, acting chairman Virgill Gericke reminded those present that they were meeting at Vic Bay by mutual agreement. "That is why we are here - to see what is going on and engage with the homeowner's association," he said.
Members of the George and Garden Route District municipal councils attended, as well as members of the surfing community, who had been invited by the HOA. Gericke, who serves on both the councils, stressed that the councillors were there as community leaders and not as council representatives.
Participants stood in a circle, looked one another in the eye and spoke frankly.
HOA chairperson Neil Schalkwyk said the intention was to make improvements. The proposed plan to put up a gate was to keep motorcycles and cars out, not pedestrians. He said the public would not be denied access at any time, day or night.
They built a walkway so people could have easy, safe access to the beach without having to walk in the road. Other aspects he mentioned included security and rumours that the Garden Route District Municipality wants to build a helicopter landing pad there to enable fast delivery of emergency services.
The community members stressed that their main concern was accessibility for everyone. They emphasised the need for following the correct procedures, including a public participation process, before any work is done. It was said that security in public areas is the responsibility of the authorities and that residents may only add security measures at their own homes.
Wrapping up, Gericke summarised the views expressed at the meeting: anything that is done must be pre-approved by the municipality and access "will not be tampered with".
A follow-up meeting was set for next Tuesday, 8 September, when the HOA will submit its plans to be discussed before decisions are made about the next steps.
Watch a video below:
Representatives of both sides expressed their satisfaction with the meeting. Gericke described it as constructive and progressive. He said that agreements were reached on certain matters where there were differences before.
Niel Schalkwyk said it was positive and that the residents and the community will work together for the security of the beach.
Nomawethu Jantjies-Gushman, a George councillor, said it was a fruitful meeting. One of the agreements is that they will sit around a table and hold hands to make sure they don't infringe on each other's rights for access to the beach.
Another member of the George Council, Kholosile Langa, described it as a very constructive meeting and said if they continue holding hands and consulting with each other, a much bigger picture can be achieved.
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