‘Flawed’ River Club plan gets green light

The River Club in Observatory.

Province has given the environmental green light to a multi-billion rand redevelopment of the River Club in Observatory — a move a civic group says is deeply flawed.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) says it’s disappointed with the decision, last Thursday, by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) to grant environmental authorisation for the proposal by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) for a R4.5 billion mixed-use development over an area the size of 15 rugby fields.

It would comprise retail, commercial, residential and institutional components as well as the rehabilitation of the Liesbeeck River and work on roads and infrastructure.

The decision followed an environmental impact assessment and public participation process.

DEADP spokesman Rudolf van Jaarsveldt said they had only granted the environmental authorisation, and the developer would still have to meet other requirements for further approvals.

“The department considered all comments from interested and affected parties received during the environmental impact assessment process,” he said.

The decision comes five months after Heritage Western Cape’s provisional protection order of the Two Rivers Urban Park expired.

Since 2016 when the development was proposed, the OCA, the Two Rivers Urban Park Association (TRUPA) and some indigenous people’s groups have opposed the development.

OCA chairman Leslie London said DEADP’s decision under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA)was deeply flawed.

“The OCA and other organisations will be appealing and exhausting all remedies available to us to challenge this outcome,” he said.

An online petition against the development, which the OCA started six months ago, has drawn nearly 17 000 signatures so far.

The high commissioner of Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council, Tauriq Jenkins, said the authorisation was an attempt to undermine the country’s spiritual soul.

“The decision prompts the need for deeper public and institutional scrutiny as to why this decision has been taken, in complete contradiction to the evidence presented to DEADP and the recognition of the site by Heritage Western Cape as of such heritage importance as to warrant heritage protection.”

They strongly rejected the decision and would appeal it, he said.

But Chief Zenzile Khoisan, of the Gorinhaiqua Cultural Council and the First Nations Collective, welcomed the decision and said it would have significant impact on the lives of indigenous people.

The development plan proposes building a Heritage Cultural and Media Centre, run by indigenous people.

“What we aim to present to our country and the world is excellence, driven by professionals who are internationally recognised,” Chief Khoisan said.

Trustee for LLPT Jody Aufrichtig said the planned development would be a big boost for the economy and people of Cape Town in the aftermath of the national Covid-19 lockdown.

“It will create over 6 000 direct jobs, including 5 239 jobs during the construction phase.”

The project would also create more than 13 000 indirect and induced jobs, he said.

“The project will also serve as a first of its kind landmark in the city for the first nations people to reclaim, memorialise and share their heritage with the greater public,” he said.