23 May 2009

Never give up

On the 13 December 2008 I first wrote about the objections of the Richmond Hill community to the proposed development a four storey call centre and the erection of a 50 metre high lattice mast in our area and I kept a link to various articles and letters on the subject in my side bar.

This view across the park from our home would have been lost forever

I am now delighted to report that the developers have finally got the message and have decided to move this project to another site. We have heard many rumours of this over the past month that this was going to happen and it was finally confirmed in the Herald on Friday, that "Police Call Centre to go up in Korsten instead". Needless to say that community has received no official confirmation of this.

The SA Police Service and the National Department of Public Works thought they were in for an easy ride when tried to push the development through, with a minimal and flawed public participation process, somewhat remiscent of the the old apartheid regime. Their intention was to start building in January this year, so as to have the call centre completed in time for the 2010 World Cup Soccer event.

Proposed building site with the public participation notices in the foreground - after the excavations were covered

They were the only people who did not think that the siting of the call centre and the mast was ill conceived and dismissed our objections as emotive. Our objections were based on:

  • Quality of life - a 24/7 operation (call centre and workshop) in a residential area will never be welcomed with open arms
  • Property values - a loss of a sea view means a loss of up to 15% of the value of ones property
  • Character of the neighbourhood - a hideous modern 4 storey building and a 40 metre high lattice mast will do nothing to enhance the characrer of the neighbourhood
  • Impact on heritage - Richmond Hill has a lot of beautiful historical buildings and does not need another eyesore, especially between two historical monuments.
  • Health concerns - there are world wide concerns about having radio masts in one's back yard
  • Impact on the historical Mfengu burial ground
Believe it or not, they wanted to erect the building on a historical burial site, of the Mfengu community that dates back to the 1800's. The Mfengu community was forcibly removed in 1903 and their old cemetary eventually lost its identity through neglect and the actions of previous oppressive regimes. Our feeling was that this was an important part of our heritage that should not be lost.

If it had not been for the community objections they would have proceeded with the project and obliterated the graveyard.

Since December last year the process got bogged down in a Historical Impact assessment. This eventually culminated in archeologists digging up parts of the site with a backhoe on 15 April and the unearthing a number of graves. On the same day they started another enviromental impact assessment, as they had decided to put the mast on a differest site - this unleashed another wave of protest.

Backhoe at work unearthing the graves - not a very sensitive approach

Two weeks ago Suzi-k got E-TV to do a slot on the development. Even though the new site had already been secured, one of the prime movers on the development still seemed to have a problem with the truth, by claiming that the development was going ahead regardless.

This view of the Erica Building from St Phillips Street would have been blocked by the new building

What this process has highlighted is that we do not have to accept the crap fed to us by the bureaucrats. It is one of the advantages of liviving in a country with a liberal constitution - i we take a strong enough stand with well reasoned and factual arguments we can win the day.

It does oncern me though is that the public participation process was followed merely to satisfy a legal requirement, rather that to listen to the concerns of those who were directly affected by the development. What eventually tipped the scales for us was the discovery of human remains on the site - all our other concerns were previously dismissed as emotive.

The reality is that we persevered and we won the day.

10 May 2009

The king is resting

Isn't he a picture of contentment - it looks like butter would not melt in his mouth? The only reason I was this close was because he was on the other side of the fence, at the Seaview Lion Park.

The only lion I have ever seen in the wild was at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It was a big male, crouching in the scrub at the side of the road, looking like he would like to make us his next meal.

During my days in the army, during the bush war in Zimbabwe, I spent a lot of time in the Zambezi Valley. It is a vast wilderness, teaming with wildlife of every kind and is still one of my favourite places on the planet. Although we never saw the lions we often heard them at night.

It was a very sobering experience, knowing that they were out there, but not knowing what their intentions were. We also knew of a guy who had recently been taken by a lion, while sitting around a camp fire at night, it simply leapt into the circle, grabbed him and disappeared into the darkness, before anyone could react.

We we young and without a sense of our own mortality and took solace in the fact that if it happened in our camp, it would be one of the other guys. Fortunately the lions left us alone.

07 May 2009

Sky Watch Friday -

If you look beyond the crocodile you will see the sky reflected in the water of the pool.

This guy was photographed at the Seaview Lion Park last weekend. Reminds me of the many times in my youth when I swam in crocidile infested rivers, like the Zambesi and Runde in Zimbabwe, much to the horror of friends and family. Would I do it now - no, I'd much rather watch the sky.

For many more great pictures of the sky from around the world visit the Sky Watch site

03 May 2009

The Lion King

This magnificent fellow was photographed at the Seaview Lion Park this afternoon. Its been many years since I last visited the park and it was ineresting to see their lion breeding project.