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.

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