The battle for Chapman's Peak PDF Print E-mail

24 January 2012

The Western Cape government recently approved a R54m toll plaza development to be built on the Table Moutain National Park (TMNP). The site is on Chapman's Peak Drive, one of the city's top tourist attractions, and is currently managed by SANParks.

The development will comprise a two-storey office block serving as headquarters for Entilini, the private company that runs the toll road. The new plaza will also be upgraded to encompass four-lane tollbooths.

Hout Bay residents are up in arms about the proposed new development. The Residents Association of Hout Bay has threatened to undertake legal action if the project ever becomes a reality. Len Swimmer, Chairman of the association, explains a resolution of the National Assembly is required in order to withdraw the declaration of an area as a national park. TMNP is still a national park and according to Swimmer the area must continue to be managed by SANParks. He says: "Chapman's Peak and Table Mountain National Park belongs to the people of South Africa, not to big business, bureaucrats and deal-making politicians!"

According to SANParks however, Chapman's Peak Drive is not a SANParks' project. David Mabunda, SANParks CEO, says: "We are not the primary proponents of the project but an affected and interested party because of the portion of the park that may be impacted by the project." He explains the process of de-proclamation by the national assembly will only begin when the Western Cape Department of Transport, the owners and custodians of the project, submit an application to the National Department of Environmental Affairs. "Should the Department of Environmental Affairs support the application, it will make recommendations to the parliamentary process for de-proclamation," he adds.

Robin Carlysle, Western Cape's Minister of Transport and Public Works, says he understands Hout Bay and Noordhoek residents are aggrieved by the Chapman's Peak toll road. According to Carlysle however, he was never in favour of the toll road and merely inherited a binding contract that had been conceived "in sin or insanity; there is no other possibility". He explains the pass was more often closed than not as the concessionaire had the power to close the pass at will. He adds: "I was determined to renegotiate the contract to eliminate its worst aspects. With the aid of the new majority interest in Entilini and with the assistance of National Treasury, we were able to amend the contract to one that is significantly more beneficial to the users, the taxpayer and the province."

About the new construction project, Carlysle says: "The alleged office block is a two-storey building, each floor of 200sqm. It is designed not to be intrusive and, by way of example, it cannot be seen from Hout Bay harbour." He adds the new toll plaza will be built into the unsightly quarry on the mountain, and will mitigate what is the ugliest feature on the mountain. "Construction is not happening at the expense of pristine fynbos or any other protected fauna," he says.

Although construction is imminent according to Swimmer, Provincial Transport Ministry Head, Hector Elliot, explains there are no dates yet for the start of the construction as the province is first awaiting the outcome of the court before starting any construction.

Source: Travel Today - News & Specials



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