Beware of Shadow Projections

The Mercury - 12 July 2013





New-look Point plans revealed


DETAILS of major changes to the original Point Waterfront Development in Durban, including a 33storey skyscraper at the harbour entrance, became public yesterday amid concerns about the limited time allowed for people to comment on the latest changes.

The revised plans are a “scaleddown” version of the original plans which sparked a series of court cases and a bumper sticker campaign by opponents who feared that the popular Vetch’s Pier and beach would be covered in concrete.

Although the provincial government approved the controversial plans in 2009, the DurbanPoint Development Company was forced back to the drawing board and signed a “ceasefire” settlement agreement late last year with the Save Vetch’s Association and the Durban Paddle Ski Club.

In terms of the compromise agreement, opponents agreed to drop legal action in return for supporting a scaled-down version that would not encroach on Vetch’s Pier or the adjoining beach.

This week, new details were published as part of amendments to the environmental authorisation process.

While the Point Yacht Club has welcomed the new plans, the Durban Paddle Ski Club is to consult legal advisers to scrutinise whether they are consistent with the settlement plan.

Point Yacht Club commodore Trevor Donald said the final plans would create a major new attraction for the city.

“We think the water sports clubs will be getting one of most exciting clubs in South Africa, with a fantastic outlook on the sea, and so we are very enthusiastic.”

But Johnny Vassilaros, of the Durban Paddle Ski Club, who played a leading role in halting the original plans, said the new plans had raised some concerns.

For example, there were plans for a new boardwalk passing directly through the launching area, as well as possible size restrictions to the original boat launching area.

Di Dold of the Coastwatch group also objected to the new boardwalk, calling it a “clear contravention” of the settlement agreement.

“If the developers want to build a new promenade it must be located above the erosion line,” she said.

There was also confusion about how much time remained for the public to comment.

A notice, dated July 2, indicates a 14-day comment period – suggesting the deadline expires on Tuesday (July 16).

Environmental consultant Pravin Amar agreed that amendments were sent out only on Saturday and that some people might have received documents only this week.

When it was suggested that most people would have only a few days to comment, Amar insisted that the 14-day period was an instruction from the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs.

The Durban Undersea Club has scheduled a report-back meeting for Monday at 6pm.

According to a new 50-page motivation plan prepared by the Iyer Design Studio, some of the main features include a small “waterfront basin” instead of the original yacht and small craft “harbour”.

Originally, an 18-storey hotel would have been built on top of Vetch’s Pier. Now, a 20-storey “five or six-star iconic hotel” would be built along the new north pier. Another new feature is a 33-storey tower block at the base of the north pier, likely to incorporate offices, shops and flats.

The most significant change is that most office, flat and shop buildings will be significantly taller.

This is because the settlement agreement specified that the developers would not reduce the original “bulk” in development.

The Iyer Design proposal said the extra height of the new buildings would not create shadow problems on adjoining beaches.

Shadow projections are based on existing city guidelines to avoid tall buildings blocking out sunlight on beaches before 3pm during winter.


Neels Brink, project director for the Durban Point Development Company, said he could not comment on the 14-day comment period. He also declined to speculate when construction might begin