This New Year’s letter serves as both an introduction to, and an update on, the activities and critical work that the Forum undertakes on behalf of the Greater Plettenberg Bay community. Members of the Forum meet monthly and constitute representatives from local and provincial government, state conservation groups (SANParks and Cape Nature), local NGOs (e.g. Keurbooms Estuary Management Forum, Nature’s Valley Trust, Eden to Addo, Bitou Valley Foundation), Ratepayers associations, conservancies, as well as specialists co-opted onto the committee.
For over 16 years the Forum has applied itself to making the inevitable growth of Bitou sustainable; allowing development and expansion to continue without destroying the uniqueness and character of the environment —our beaches, forests, estuaries and fynbos. These are the natural assets that you all find so precious and attract you to live or holiday here.
Our constant monitoring of all planning applications also has a positive effect on the value of property, for it guarantees that the character of buildings and developments remains in keeping with the ‘sense of place’ that Plett has to offer. You only have to look at Mossel Bay or Umhlanga to appreciate the negative impact of bad planning.
Funds are urgently needed to enable us to continue this monitoring. While all committee members work on a volunteer basis, we need to raise at least R180 000 per annum to cover our running costs which include: our own consultant, specialist and legal advice; travel to conferences and meetings; and general running costs.
Various fundraising events are being organised but regular financial support is desperately needed to keep the Forum viable. We are a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO 146-140) and have Section 18A approval from SARS, meaning all donations are tax deductible. Our banking details are:
Standard Bank Plettenberg Bay * Account number: 186861508 * Branch: 050714
The Harbour Development
Members of the Forum and Plett Ratepayers were at the forefront in raising awareness and funds to halt the proposed multi-storey harbour development. Unfortunately, recent reports that this development has been averted might be premature.
In April 2014 the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning of the Western Cape rejected the Scoping Report for the project on several grounds and provided the applicant with an opportunity to submit a revised and improved report within six months, as specified in the relevant legislation.
The developer failed to submit the required revised report in time, and then applied for an extension of time to do so. This the Minister refused. The developer then launched a court application in the Cape Town High Court to have this decision by the Minister reviewed and set aside.
As part of this Court process, the Minister and the developer agreed that the developer should first lodge an internal appeal to the Minister before a Court is asked to review and set aside the Minister’s decision. This internal appeal, we understand, has now been lodged, and we and all other interested and affected parties await formal notification from the developer about the details thereof.
Clearly, the developer is stringing out the matter endlessly; we have yet to see a happy end to this saga. The Forum continues to monitor the situation closely and will keep everyone informed as and when things change.
There are a number of new and recurring projects that the Forum is involved with and will be providing comments and advice on. Some of the more prominent ones are:
- Water security: ensuring that a comprehensive reserve determination is done for the Keurbooms and Bitou Rivers before the construction of the planned off-stream storage dam commences.
- Spatial Development Framework: The Forum was largely responsible for determining the urban edge, ensuring that development does not creep into sensitive areas. We will continue to ensure that the urban edge is defined and defended.
- The proposed opening of sections of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area to fishing.
- Protecting the few remaining Knysna Afro-Montane Forests in the area from development.
Identifying areas where alien vegetation needs to be eradicated and supporting its clearing in our catchment areas to secure our water resources.
- Providing input on the stabilisation of local river banks to protect the sensitive ecosystems found on and around them and to encourage a standardised method that can be used by all properties next to rivers.
The Forum constantly works to conserve the precious assets of our region and does this by
- keeping abreast of all new development applications.
- keeping up to date with new legislation.
- regular contact with local and provincial government on new applications and issues.
- questioning and challenging environmental practitioners that do not follow sound practices.
- monitoring the water reserves and quality of our rivers to ensure ecologically sound water.
We thank you for your continued support and wish you a happy, healthy 2016 enjoying the beauty of Plett’s natural wonders.
The Plett Environmental Forum Executive
Chairs: Rudi Martin, Basil van Rooyen, Julie Carlisle. Consultant: Dr Gwenith Penry
Fundraising Advisors: Lady Annabelle Conyngham and Dr Nicky Frootko
Contact: Dr Gwenith Penry – firstname.lastname@example.org