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Monday Jan 14, 2013

Hout Bay family fined over manipulation of mountain stream through property

A R90 000 fine imposed by the Western Cape on a billionaire Italian family for unlawfully manipulating a mountain stream flowing through the property of their Hout Bay mansion has infuriated some local residents.

The affected property is now in the estate of the late Pietro Ferrero, chief executive of the Ferrero Group, which produces, among other products, Ferrero Rocher and Kinder chocolates and Nutella. The 47-year-old died after falling from his bicycle while on a training ride in Cape Town in April 2011.

The Residents' Association of Hout Bay has described the fine as "a gentle slap on the wrist" for what it terms "unlawful activities undertaken wilfully and solely for the selfish benefit of the owner".

It believes the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning is set to approve a rectification programme requiring only minor remedial measures that will still leave a "residual impact of medium to high negative significance".

But the province will not process the rectification application until the fine has been paid, and the fine is still the subject of an appeal process. The association has already formally objected.

Ferrero's two-erven property, collectively named Flight Deck, is in Suzanne Avenue, the highest road on the south-eastern slopes of Hout Bay.

The rectification application acknowledges unlawful construction of a large berm (an earth wall), a smaller berm, a small pond, piping of a water course - a stream tributary of the Baviaanskloof River - and a building platform. Work on some of these structures started as early as 2003, and work on the pond in mid-2009.

Legally, one may not interfere with the free flow of a stream or river, and because the activities were potentially harmful to the environment, an environmental impact assessment process should have been done.

The application was submitted to the province in December 2010. It replied in late September 2011, triggering a public participation process.

During that process, both CapeNature and the residents' association argued that the unauthorised activities had resulted in "negative impacts of high significance at a local level".

But the property owner's environmental consultant replied: "Many of the negative impacts were already present before the construction of the berm."

The consultant also pointed out that the Ferrero property was neither abstracting water nor detaining water flows.

The Star

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