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Wednesday Nov 27, 2013

Proposed Plet harbour development divides locals

The final scoping report for the controversial R4 billion Plettenberg Bay small-boat harbour development has just been released, highlighting major environmental and economic concerns.

The Piesang River estuary in Plettenberg Bay.

The planned 87 000m2 development by Western Cape Marina Investments is set to include 482 residential units, 1 343m2 of office space, a 110room five- star hotel, mansions, 8 700m2 of retail space, a plaza, a yacht club and 2 000 parking bays.

The proposal has seen huge opposition from residents, who earlier this year formed a human NO-sign on Central Beach, and prompted locals to establish the Save Plett Alliance and appoint a legal team to protect their interests.

Their main objections include the scope of the development being out if kilter with the size of the town as well as the potential effects the development could have on the environment.

The final scoping report, released this week by Port Elizabeth-based CEN IEM Unit, mirrors their concerns. It highlights a number of potential negative environmental and socio-economic impacts including the loss of important estuarine habitats through dredging.

The report revealed that this could result in a reduction of diversity of estuarine biota that are dependant on these habitats.

The report also highlights the potential impact on water quality which could become contaminated by fuel, oil and concrete during the construction phase of the project.

Findings of the preliminary social investigation done by Dr Anton de Wit suggest that there are positive as well as negative social effects of the proposed development.

Positive impacts include socio-economic benefits as a result of employment creation, and empowerment benefits in the construction phase.

It is expected that during the four years of construction more than 960 jobs will be created per year with about 460 being direct jobs.

De Wit's study also highlights a number of potential negative effects including socio-cultural conflicts, a decrease in tourism and indirect impacts on businesses in the construction phase.

CEN's Dr Mike Cohen said a number of specialist studies would be done for the environmental impact report.

'The response about the proposed development has been overwhelming, both for and against,' Cohen said.

He said opposition came primarily from the more affluent residents while support came from disadvantaged communities who saw the project for its job creation potential.

Interested parties have until January 17 to comment on the final report.

Save Plett Alliance spokesman Basil van Rooyen said the report showed the developer was determined to continue with the project as initially planned, despite input from residents.

'We also want to lobby people who have homes but just stay here in December as they know nothing about the project yet,' Van Rooyen said.

Cape Argus


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