The article “The River Club: flawed processes and a dirty fight for development and heritage” by Jens Horber (mail and guardianOctober 29, 2022) refers.
Over the past year, Horber, who recently graduated as an urban planner, has voiced his opposition to the River Club (well beyond the scope of planning matters). Unfortunately, his attacks are based almost entirely on misinformation and prejudice.
Horber places a lot of emphasis on Chief Judge Patricia Goliath’s decision to bar construction on the River Club site. But then she downplays the critical development of the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in Bloemfontein, which overturned Goliath’s later refusal to allow her decision and her orders to be appealed. Instead, the SCA ordered the entire Western Cape High Court to consider Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust’s (LLPT) application for dismissal of the entire judgment, and the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town and the Collective. of the Western Cape First Nations. and orders.
The court heard this appellate matter on October 11 and 12, along with a request for rescission filed by the elders and members of Goringhaicona (through the advice of the Goringhaicona Traditional Khoi Khoin Indigenous Council/GKKITC). The GKKITC approached the courts seeking to rescind the Goliath Judgment and Orders in their entirety on the grounds that these parties did not want the GKKITC to remain involved in the litigation brought by Tauriq Jenkins on his behalf.
Critically, they accused Jenkins of misrepresenting the facts at the Goliath court hearing and subsequently trying to force certain parts of the First Nations to sign affidavits against their wishes. Jenkins had the opportunity to respond to these allegations and questions raised by the judges in these court proceedings. The court’s decision and judgment is now awaited on both the appeal and recession issues.
Horber repeats the same misinformation spread by Jenkins and Leslie London, who have stated that their only wish is to try and stop development. But they have not been able to demonstrate any right that is threatened by urbanization (and they have not been able to demonstrate “irreparable” damage, which is a requirement to grant an injunction), because the reality is that urbanization only increases the associative heritage value. of the area and rehabilitates the degraded environment.
Court documents now filed in the review matter (Part B) by the LLPT, prove that the 18 indigenous Khoi parties that Jenkins refers to as being excluded from participation were aware of the public participation processes but chose not to register as interested and affected parties in the respective provincial and municipal citizen participation processes. Now they cannot complain about the so-called exclusion when this is clearly not the case.
Horber also continues to refer to an online petition sent by Jenkins and London as evidence that there is widespread public opposition to the development. However, this petition (which circulated after planning development and environmental approvals) was also based on misinformation and lies, and according to Municipal Ordinances, which require adequate and transparent public participation processes, the authorities should have done so. ignored.
The real facts are that the majority of Cape Khoi leaders on the Peninsula support the redevelopment of the River Club and were consulted throughout the development approval process. This process culminated in a redevelopment plan that will include a series of services to commemorate and celebrate the intangible heritage of the greater Two Rivers area, of which the River Club property forms 5%. This will include a cultural, heritage and media center, to be operated and managed by First Nations, an indigenous garden, a heritage garden and trail and an amphitheater that will function as sites of memory and living cultural practice and celebration.
The truth is that London and Jenkins (and Horber) are not happy that their comments have been considered and addressed by the relevant authorities in the lengthy application and legal appeal processes undertaken when the authorities provided detailed reasons for approving the development. The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) and Jenkins belatedly launched a review process six months after the provincial decision to grant environmental clearance. It is clear that this judicial request is nothing more than an appeal disguised as a review and has no basis.
Perhaps one of the most offensive insinuations in Horber’s article is that there was some sort of collusion between the developer and the City of Cape Town when it granted planning permission and the suggestion that reports from specialist consultants submitted with the application for development lacked independence due to the consultants paid by the developer. Horber has offered no evidence to support this claim, even though he has questioned the integrity and independence of officials and some of the most renowned professionals in their respective fields in South Africa.
Instead, his lack of understanding of the planning approval processes is evidenced by his insinuation that the “city gets” a traffic relief bridge as part of the development contribution/fees paid by the developer.” But the cost incurred by the LLPT for this and other infrastructure is above any normal contribution, and as a planner you must realize the positive effect this linkage will have on the Maitland and Salt River and surrounding areas. This is something that the city recognizes, in its statutory function, as an imperative to promote sustainable developments that are of interest to the general public. The River Club development fully meets these imperatives.
Horber also makes several other libelous accusations that have been repeatedly pushed by Jenkins and London without a shred of evidence. This includes the following three falsehoods:
First, create the impression that something was wrong with the sale of the River Club land to the developer. Here are the facts: The R12 million purchase refers to what is in the historic bare domain property title and has nothing to do with the leasing and development rights and commercial interests involved. The rights to the land and development were purchased legally, and the continuing accusations made by OCA and Jenkins supporters, such as Horber, are baseless and libelous.
Second, the River Club site was not shortlisted by Amazon as a preferred site for its new regional offices. Here are the facts: Architect Derick Henstra, who reportedly drew up this listing, was part of an unsuccessful competing bid for Amazon’s new office. So it’s curious why he supposedly had the authority to compile a list of preferred sites. Henstra also made an offer to be an architect on the River Club site and was unsuccessful. Therefore, we believe that his claims, which have been used in the applicant’s supporting affidavits, are baseless, malicious, and nothing more than sour grapes.
Thirdly, the claim that the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) is in the process of qualifying this site as part of the wider Two Rivers Urban Park is not true. While Jenkins filed an application for provincial heritage status (which the Heritage Western Cape has not pursued); and now an application for national heritage status, SAHRA has not rated the site. Before you could even consider doing so, the agency would be required to conduct an objective evaluation of your application and give the LLPT, as the owner of the land, the right to be consulted and to consider any report. So even though the OCA and Jenkins, on the back of their own application, claim to speak on behalf of SAHRA, this is false and misleading.
Horber is correct that the government has started a process to investigate the identification of the wider area of the two rivers as part of the Khoisan Legacy Project and the National Liberation Heritage Route. Two members of the Western Cape First Nations Collective (who have consulted the LLPT and support development) have been appointed by the Minister for Sport, Arts and Culture to sit on a committee to drive this initiative forward.
Finally, when it comes to your claims about the environmental impact of the development, these are the real facts: the natural resources on the site, including the waterways adjacent to the property, are severely degraded. As part of the redevelopment, some R38 million will be spent on rehabilitating the river corridor which will feature improved habitat for a number of species, including the Western Cape leopard toad, giant kingfisher and Cape dwarf chameleon.
During the development approval process, several detailed reports from independent specialists were submitted, including detailed assessments of surface water hydrology and biodiversity by a multidisciplinary team that included a freshwater ecologist, an avifauna specialist, a wildlife specialist (with specific expertise in herpetology), a surface water hydrologist, botanist, and hydrogeologist, who found that the redevelopment will be a positive net benefit to the local environment and not have a detrimental effect as Horber, London, and Jenkins claim.
Horber’s reliance on the after-the-fact reports of Professor John Dewar and Dr. Michael Mentis (provided as affidavits in support of the claims made by the OCA and Jenkins) ignores the rebuttals made by the engineers, planners, professional aquatic ecologists and professional natural scientists and other experts. in the affidavits filed in the matter of review. The qualified engineers also demonstrated that neither Mentis nor Dewar have the required formal qualifications or professional experience to comment on the engineers’ hydrology work and other aspects of engineering.
It is unfortunate that despite the fact that the LLPT and the other defendants in the court case have repeatedly denied the accusations made by Horber, he continues to try to push this misinformation into the media. The LLPT remains committed to providing world-class development that celebrates the heritage associated with the wider area and will provide a range of socio-economic benefits to nearby areas, including developer-subsidized inclusive housing, publicly accessible green space, and more than 6 000 direct and 19,000 indirect jobs.
James Tannenberger is a trustee of Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, the developer of the River Club redevelopment.