Vetch’s lobby cries foul over new Point plan

  • 23 Jul 2013
  • The Mercury
  • Tania Broughton


ANOTHER row is simmering over Durban’s Point Waterfront upgrade with concerns that in its revised plan, the development company has broken a deal it had with the watersports clubs by including a swimming beach and public promenade in front of their site.

The deal was brokered last year between the Save the Vetch’s Association, the Durban Paddle Ski Club and the Durban Point Development Company, bringing an end to what had already been lengthy litigation stalling any development in the area.

Now in submissions on the recently released revised plan, Michael Jackson, the lawyer acting for the association and the club, has taken issue with the siting of a promenade and jetties below the erosion line, which will hinder access to the beach by vehicles with boats and trailers.

He says while he hopes the concerns are “unfounded” and based on “misunderstandings”, he suggests that unless they are resolved, the deal could be off.

Cuane Hall, the chairman of the Durban Undersea Club, has echoed similar concerns. He told The Mercury: “The promenade cannot happen and will not happen. We have voiced our concerns and we will keep voicing them until it goes away.”

Jackson, in his written submission in the environmental approval process for the revised plan, says his clients fully support a development consistent with the settlement agreement, which must be complied with.

“The litigation which preceded it was motivated by the strongly held belief that the Vetch’s Beach is iconic to Durban and the way of life enjoyed by its citizens.

“The agreement accommodated both development and the beachcentred lifestyle. It is of fundamental importance this is not destroyed but is rather captured and celebrated,” he says.

In terms of the agreement the entire beach zone was to be a launch zone.

“Placing a public walkway directly across it from north to south would be both dangerous (to pedestrians) and in our clients’ view nonsensical,” he says.

Further, by placing the promenade so close to the sea it exposed it to severe storms and damage, with debris strewn on the beach and reef which would in turn cause damage to craft.

He said it appeared the operational launch zone was only 153m long, whereas it was the intention of the settlement agreement that the entire beach zone of about 300m could be used for launching.

The Durban Undersea Club is still formulating its written response. But Hall said the issue of the swimming beach and the promenade “keeps popping up” and he believed it was an attempt by the Point precinct developers to appease the city which wanted a promenade along the entire beachfront.

“We are not happy with it and we have raised it in our negotiations. We are not sure what is intended by a promenade, whether it is just a walkway as exists now. We are also not happy with the appearance of a a swimming beach when it is an operational beach,” he said.

Coastwatch KZN, while finding some improvements in the new plan, has raised similar concerns about the siting of the promenade.

And the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance predicts that the promenade will be “consumed by the relentless forces of the sea”.

It has also expressed concern about the impact of a slipway allowing direct access to the canal which would place at risk its marine ecological system.

 

“Neighbouring Sea World has been stocking the canal with various marine species including kingfish, spotted grunter, lionfish, mullet and parrotfish. Successful breeding is occurring and it has become a tourist attraction in its own right,” the alliance said.