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Tuesday Jul 23, 2013

Bid to thwart Menlyn casino plan

A group of 22 residents' associations and interest groups who lodged a complaint with the Public Protector about the City of Tshwane's disregard for their concerns over increased development in the Menlyn area, are looking to launch an objection with the Gauteng Gambling Board on the development of a multibillion-rand casino complex in the area.

The Joint Action Group (JAG), laid a complaint in August with the Public Protector over the city's approval of the Menlyn Node Spatial Development Framework of 2012 which aims to densify and develop certain areas.

The group claimed the city ignored a negative traffic impact analysis and forged ahead with approving the framework and even added more areas.

The group's main concern is the strain the increased development will put on existing services, traffic and the public transport system.

Other concerns include the inadequate provision of community facilities such as taxi ranks, schools, police stations, fire stations and open spaces.

Kgalalelo Masibi, spokeswoman for the Public Protector, said the investigation is at an advanced stage and the city has been co-operating with the needs of the investigator.

Now, on top of their dissatisfaction with the Menlyn Node, residents recently found out they might also have a casino - Time Square at Menlyn Maine - on their doorstep.

Sun International wants to have its casino licence transferred from the Morula casino north of the city to Menlyn Maine in a R3 billion entertainment complex development. The casino will have 3 000 slot machines and 100 gaming tables - making it bigger than the casinos at Montecasino and Emperor's Palace.

If the licence is granted, the development could be completed within three years.

Residents claimed they were not informed of the possibility of a casino development in the area.

'We are unhappy about the underhanded way in which this matter was dealt with,' said Erik Buiten, co-convener of JAG.

Buiten said the residents' main concern was traffic congestion and they would be taking this up with the council.

'The general feeling seems to be one of surprise, suspicion and concern - people want to be informed of what is happening and what it will mean for them. Information has been less than forthcoming,' he said.

City of Tshwane spokesman Blessing Manale said the city was aware of the investigation but would only comment once the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had made her recommendation.

'To the best of our knowledge no feedback has been received from the Public Protector regarding the matter,' Manale said.

The aim of the Menlyn Node Spatial Development Framework of 2012 was to 'densify and intensify' the area around Menlyn, he added.

Other areas that will undergo the same development are the city centre, Hatfield, Mamelodi and Centurion.

'The complainants seem to want to retain the status quo of low density, low intensity, and private carorientated spatial environment. This is not seen as sustainable in the future and will not be supported by the City of Tshwane,' Manale said.

JAG said it was not opposed to develop me
nt and change as long as 'proper public consultation processess' were followed and the developments were based on 'sound planning principles'.

In 2010, before the Spatial Development Framework was finalised, the city and residents agreed that a traffic study would be undertaken.

Residents say the study found the existing road system was already under stress and even with road improvements and the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system, it would not be able to accommodate the developments in the area.

Surrounding areas such as Menlo Park, Brooklyn, Faerie Glen, Waterkloof, Lynnwood and Garsfontein were added to the Spatial Development Framework retrospectively, allegedly without any public consultation.

Regarding the casino, Manale said the city approved land use rights for 'a place of amusement'.

According to the city, a 'place of amusement' encompasses the possibility of a casino development.

Manale said the casino developers had to obtain a licence from the Gauteng Gambling Board.

Southern Sun has advertised that they have applied for their licence to be transferred and increased.

JAG said it was 'seriously considering' lodging a complaint with the board.

While some residents are opposed to the casino development, others have welcomed the idea.

Piet du Toit, chief executive of the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the development would be good for business in the area.

When they announced their plans Sun International said the development would create thousands of jobs during construction and after opening.

Pretoria News


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