Anger after trees removed

In this image from February this year, both rows of trees one inside and one outside the barrier that was put up during excavation of the 24 Main Road site can be seen.

The main contractor on a large student housing development on Main Road, Rosebank, has agreed to replant trees that had been erroneously removed by a sub-contractor during construction.

This followed a public outcry and an official complaint being lodged with the City of Cape Town over the removal of the trees, after allegations emerged of the developer ignoring instructions from City Parks to retain them.

Some residents had described the development of 24 Main Road, Rosebank, as a “cowboy operation”, as not only had the trees been removed, but the “sidewalk has been completely usurped by construction materials, leaving no safe pathway at all for pedestrians”, according to email correspondence in the Tatler’s possession.

However, in a statement to the Tatler, the main contractor on the project, Aveng Grinaker-LTA, said: “Aveng Grinaker-LTA can confirm that the City of Cape Town granted the company permission to remove five trees on the 24 Main Road, Rosebank site to enable operations. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding with the sub-contractor, an additional five trees were removed.

“Management acted swiftly to address this error and has already made arrangements to replace all the trees once the project is complete. Aveng Grinaker-LTA is committed to protecting the environment and to minimising the impact of our business on our natural surroundings wherever possible”.

City spokesperson Priya Reddy confirmed the trees on Main Road would be replaced by the developer once the project had been completed.

City Parks first received a request from a “construction company” for permission to remove and then replant or replace five Celtis Africana trees growing on the pavement in November last year. There were 10 trees in total, planted in two rows of five each.

At a site meeting, Johann Herholdt, the area manager for City Parks in Newlands, questioned whether the removal of trees was necessary, but was told that the trees would have to be removed due to possible damage during building operations, “even if only temporarily”. He then provided Hester Sephton, an occupational health and safety practitioner representing the construction company, Aveng Grinaker-LTA, the requirements in the event of City Parks agreeing to the removal of trees.

According to Mr Herholdt, he did not hear about the issue again until he received another request on July 1 from Planning Partners for permission to remove the existing five Celtis Africana trees and replace them with 1 000 litre size trees after completion of the project.

After receiving an undertaking that the work would be overseen by a qualified landscape contractor and the new trees would be planted with new compost, topsoil, fertilisers and drip irrigation in a one-year maintenance period, he agreed to the replacement of the five trees. Planning Partners then came back with a new request to replace all 10 trees, which he refused, and on July 26 the company agreed to only remove five trees.

However, “for unknown reasons” all the trees had been removed.

Dr Mandy Barnett, of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), had also laid a complaint with the City and asked for an investigation.

“I cannot see how, in the face of rapid urbanisation and densification, when important green features create microclimates for well-being and climate change, any developer could be given permission to remove such trees,” she said.

Jonathan Hobday, chairperson of the Rosebank and Mowbray Civic Association, said the association was “appalled at the seeming insensitivity and disregard” for property that appeared to attend the destruction of these trees.

“It goes completely against the pledges that we made in various presentations to the community about this development at 24 Main Road. A lot of effort has been put in over the years to soften the landscape along this section of Main Road by the planting of trees – and this is a serious blow to these beautification initiatives,” he said.

The 24 Main Road property was approved for a 536-student residence by the City last year.