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.


Michelle Johnson said...

Congrats on the win. I think somethings are worth fighting for and the integrity of the land and graves was certainly worth the save. Continue all your hard work it is paying off. Your church pic is beautiful. Have a nice weekend.

JO PETERS said...

Never give up... I have had over the years ongoing battles over properties I own; the local counties and supervising boards, the state, and even the federal government have all acted aggressively to try to take what is mine.. and in most instances, they have succeeded. At this time, one piece of land I own in Texas is going to be taken in order that an electric company (with the association of a billionaire) to erect 100 foot tall power lines; another piece of property is being trespassed on daily as the state of California widens the freeway only 30 feet from my property line, and my home was already burned down in a suspicious brush fire after the state had included it in an online offering of lifetime memberships to the nature preserve that included my privately owned property. There is no such thing as property rights here in the U.S. I am losing everything to the power of the government, despite having paid all the property taxes and owning my properties without debt at all.
I hate it here and would like to leave. If I had just $50,000 U.S. I would be on the first plane out of here, never to return.

Anna said...

Hey Max-e this is wonderful news, it is true never give up...Anna :)

Max-e said...

Michelle, I agree with you on this one. The people buried here had an important role in the development of the city and their graves are very much part of our heritage.
We are going to push for the site to be turned into a garden of rememberance

Max-e said...

Jo, it sounds like you have had a bad run. Stick in there and fight it with all you have. The perception is that the person with the most money and influence usually wins. Always look for the alternatives.
I have also been having my say against the development of nuclear power station near Cape Saint Francis where we have a holiday apartment. The statement has been made in the press that the programme has been scrapped because of the lack of funds, but I have just received a notification about them revising their plan.
You also need to separate the lies from the truth

Max-e said...

Anna, you are so right. There have been times when we have wanted to throw in the towel, but persevered.

Old Scribe said...

Congratulations on your win. I agree that my old school - the first I attended (as a non-girl) would have been ruined by that new monstrosity (What is it with modern architects? Can't they design anything nice any more - to go in Korsten, of course!) Another historical memory I have of the area is the Coloured "enclave" at the other end of Burgess Street, which was there in 1964. I notice from Google Earth it has gone - seems to be a block of flats and a large house there now. What's happened to it? The shop at the triangle tip where Burgess St and Zareba St join still has the building which used to be Erskine Wong's grocery store. Is that still a shop? All in all, Google Earth shows the area to be much as it was then, and with the Communications Centre moving on, so much the better for it! It has character.

Eleanor said...

Good for you! It takes a lot of commitment to stay with that kind of effort and that little church is a view worth retaining. At present it feels like all of Pretoria East is being dug up in order to widen/construct new roads. These roadworks are certainly needed, not only for 2010but in general. But the chaos is awful. Charles Street in front of my house is being widened. I have been in contact with the construction who have assured me all the jacarandas that are removed will be replaced (with jacarandas). The tree replanting has already started higher up in the Menlo Park area. At least that is something!

Pamela said...

Well done and thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.