Residents feel ‘bulldozed’ by housing developments

THE objective of the meeting was to address the concerns raised by residents during the scoping and EIA study phases.
THE objective of the meeting was to address the concerns raised by residents during the scoping and EIA study phases.

RESIDENTS have expressed that they feel “bulldozed” by the proposed housing development earmarked for Esselen Park.

This was raised at the recent public meeting held by Nemai Consulting on March 15 in Birchleigh North.

Nemai was hired by Ekurhuleni metro to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) regarding the impact the houses will have on the environment should the project be given the go-ahead.

The objective of the meeting was to address the concerns raised by residents during the scoping and EIA study phases. The meeting was also an opportunity for the consultancy company to provide an overview of the proposed housing development, to discuss the environmental authorisation process as well as present the draft EIA.

The area identified for development is the 172ha portion of the Witfontein farm area near Esselen Park. The area is earmarked for middle-income housing in the current spatial development plan.

But the meeting left those in attendance dissatisfied and to a certain point angered by the proposed development, mainly because they felt their concerns raised in the past were never considered.

This included more than 5 000 people objecting to the development in April last year, where the Concerned Birchleigh/Birchleigh North Residents’ Association collected 5 104 signed objection forms and submitted them to the metro’s city planning department with official proof of acceptance.

“As chairperson for the Concerned Birchleigh/Birchleigh North Residents, we would like to raise the following concerns about the proposed development of the Esselen Park/Birchleigh North Ext 4 project. Firstly, the formal concerns forwarded to Nemai on October 29 were not solved, as seen in the Draft EIA open for perusal at the Kempton Library,” Dr Stefan Hough said.

“Proof thereof is your inability to answer the concerns of the public in the meeting on March 15,” Hough said.

Among many of the concerns raised at the meeting included the additional overload the new development would have on existing infrastructure and public facilities, such as the already congested roads, overcrowded schools and under-resourced police stations.

People were also anxious that the time frames for the building of the homes and public facilities would be concurrent, so that the facilities would be completed by the time the homes were occupied.

Other concerns which the residents feel were never answered include:

*The residents had asked Nemai for the River Health Programme licence obtained for an additional waste discharge in the Kaal Spruit, which eventually flowed into the Hartbeespoort Dam.

*Residents had requested Nemai to stop with the EIA process and stop with the unsupported development.

“We therefore will have to approach the courts and request for an interdict to stop Nemai and the Ekurhuleni Metro with planning the Esselen Park/Birchleigh North Ext 4 development that will be detrimental for the public and environment,” Hough said.

  AUTHOR
Nolwazi Dhlamini
Senior Journalist

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