Issued George Municipality, 3 March 2022
George Municipality is aware of concerns raised on social media and in petitions pertaining to the proposed development at the GRD, namely the DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REPORT FOR THE PROPOSED TERTIARY AND MIXED-USE PRECINCT DEVELOPMENT AT THE GARDEN ROUTE DAM AND ASSOCIATED INFRASTRUCTURE ON A PORTION OF THE REMAINDER OF ERF 464, GEORGE (reference DEA&DP Ref: 16/3/3/2/D2/19/0000/22). These concerns have also been recorded as part of the extensive public participation process.
The Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (DEIAR) has been made available by the relevant Environmental Assessment Practitioners, for comment, following the consent of the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning: Environmental Impact Management Services ( DEADP) to proceed with the second round of public participation. The Draft EIA for the proposed development has been sent to all registered Interested and Affected parties for comment, but anyone is welcome to submit comments before 11 March 2022.
In and around 2018, Council received several queries from the private sector requesting access to land to establish a tertiary education or research institution. After careful consideration Council took a decision instructing the administration to investigate the use of Erf 464, adjacent to the Garden Route Dam as a site for such a development. Council also resolved that there be a process to attain the environmental approvals and the town planning or land rights. Finally, Council resolved that once the latter processes were completed, the matter must revert to Council for further consideration. At no time did Council indicate any intent to undertake such a development itself.
The Municipality went ahead and appointed consultants to undertake these two processes. This has taken the better part of three years and the two applications will soon have to be adjudicated by the relevant authorities, namely the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (to assess the EIA) and the Eden Municipal Planning Tribunal- (to assess the town planning application).
CURRENT STATUS: THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT APPLICATION
The Environmental Impact Assessment application has now been completed and is accompanied by a 75-page motivating memorandum that includes five specialist reports including case studies, an urban design report, heritage impact and recommendations, a visual impact assessment, engineering report, stormwater management plan and traffic impact assessment. The document is available for download from the Sharples Environmental Services (SES)website (www.sescc.net) under the “Public Documents” section. The other process- and technical documentation relating to this project is available on www.sescc.net, Public Documents.
Besides making the document available to all who have registered as Interested and Affected Parties, notices inviting comment were placed by Sharples Environmental Services(SES) as required by DEADP. Anyone may comment on the report. Any additional comment on the DEIAR document and proposed activity must be submitted in writing to SES: Betsy Ditcham on or before 11 March 2022 by means of the following: Fax: 086-575 2869, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or postal address: PO Box 443, Milnerton, 7435.
There are two interrelated, legislated processes relating to the proposed development, both inviting public participation/input and support, being the current Environmental Impact Assessment (SES EIA process), to be assessed by DEADP and the town-planning application, which will be independently evaluated by the Eden Municipal Tribunal.
DEADP has 108 days for comment and to make a final decision, hence there is a 5-month period until there is an environmental outcome and thereafter the town-planning application can be considered by the Tribunal. Neither the George Council nor any official will undertake any authorisation at all.
It must be noted that BOTH authorisations must be in place for any development to go ahead. If either one of the applications are refused, then the other cannot succeed. The town planning application will only be submitted to the Tribunal for consideration once DEADP has issued their decision.
Once the decisions have been made, both processes allow for a 21-day appeals period.
PUBLIC COMMENT AND MISINFORMATION
Unfortunately, the public comments and petitions made on social media and other platforms about this application are not necessarily accurate nor representative of the type of development envisioned. Please guard against misinformation.
Aspects of the projects which may impact on the environment have been studied by qualified professionals and the required adjustments were made to the initial project proposal (footprint). Points raised in the Public Participation process thus far and responses thereto are noted in the Appendix E of the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report. All concerned residents are invited to read the relevant studies, view the adjusted development proposal, and review the responses compiled in project documentation. A hard copy of the report DEIAR has been made available in the George Public Library.
Should this project come to fruition, specifications include more than 75ha of the 118ha (64%) to be open space conservation area. Of the remaining 36%, only 5ha (4%) will be commercial, and the rest (32%) will be educational and residential. The intention is that all future users become custodians of the space and the site be managed by firm rules in terms of an Environmental Management Plan.
It is important to note that although the land is owned by Council and the Municipality contracted the required applications, Council will not have any role in the authorisations or approvals at all. Furthermore, as stated previously, Council has no intention to develop the property itself.
In closing, George Municipality agrees that the dam should remain accessible to all citizens and believes that responsible, sustainable, mixed land use development will not only celebrate the qualities of this extraordinary site but also address some of the negative issues which residents are experiencing associated with large tracts of densely vegetated land – such as illegal occupation of land, sheltering of vagrants and criminals, cost of vegetation management and fire risk.