Statement: Garden Route Dam development gets environmental approval
George Municipality is aware of continued concerns pertaining to the proposed development at the Garden Route Dam after Interested and Affected Parties (IAP) were all informed of the decision by the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) to grant the Environmental Authorisation on 19 September 2022. In these communications full details were provided for the reasons for the decision, as well as information pertaining to the right to appeal the decision.
As previously stated, the history of this matter goes back to 2014 when the first studies were undertaken. Over the years there has been interest from various entities to acquire the land for development, but the Municipality was of the view that any potential for the land had to be subject to a process to attain the environmental approvals and the town planning or land rights before any appropriate development. It is again emphasised that Council does not intend to develop the land itself nor are there any interested investors, irrespective of the potential land rights. The unfortunate and misinformed contentions that Council is acting in the interests of any business or individual is thus blatantly false. Council land is a valuable asset and, as any landowner will know, ensuring that property is correctly and appropriately zoned maximises the value of the property.
It is acknowledged that land-use planning is often polarizing and contentious and may be a source of conflict and tension. But the purpose of zoning any land is to allow for the regulation of land and property markets, to control the allocation of land for specific uses, to ensure land complementary uses and services, and for the community to have knowledge and certainty for the future. This ensures that finite resources (i.e. land) are available for future generations. It can also minimise the effect of economic activities and development on the environment as the best use of available resources is achievable through organised usage.
The land use authorisation has NOT been awarded for this matter and both the environmental and land use authorisations must be in place for any development to go ahead. The town planning application will be assessed by the Eden District Tribunal for consideration, but only after the matter has again been assessed by the Council, for Council to decide if it wishes to further proceed. Council may decide to only proceed with the residential development, and Council may resolve to impose certain restrictions on any development opportunity.
In closing, George Municipality agrees that the Garden Route Dam must 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. Council has to seek ways in which to protect its assets and sweat its assets in order to provide for the sustainable development and the protection of the City and its environment.