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Jan 27, 2012

Developer frustrated at lack of progress on North West eco-estate proposal

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Bureaucracy in the North West provincial government is hampering the development of an eco estate in the area surrounding Naauwpoort, says Chesterton Farms Equestrian Estates developer and director Chester Staples.

Progress has reportedly been frustrated since 2008 and Staples is now considering taking legal action against the provincial government.

Speaking to Engineering News, Staples says the projected value for the development is R80-million and that, over the past four year, his property development company has been trying to conclude the approval requirements to develop the estate.

The final development application facilitation process has been hampered, however, by the failure to reappoint the tribunal that was to adjudicate the matter. The final hear- ing date was first scheduled for April 21, 2011, and then moved to May 5, 2011. Staples was then informed that the tribunal chairperson and committee members would not sit for the hearing until they were guaranteed their salaries.

Subsequently, he says, the final hearing date was tentatively set for August 18, 2011, but was cancelled when member of the executive council (MEC) for local government and traditional affairs Paul Sebogoe did not reappoint the tribunal.

Meanwhile, he was informed by the North West government in July that the MEC did not want to reinstate the members of the tribunal, but aimed to appoint new members, and that this process would have been concluded by the end of August. To date, the tribunal has not been set up, Staples reports.

North West provincial government spatial planning deputy director Marijke van Heerden tells Engineering News the provincial government intended to reappoint the existing tribunal. “However, the MEC wanted to give other people the opportunity to serve on the tribunal. An advertisement was placed in local newspapers and the closing date was October 14, 2011.

“The list of candidates has been submitted to the MEC to nominate suitable candidates. The matter is still with the MEC,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Staples says the developers and investors of the estate have spent about R1.4-million on the development. He says the company will subpoena the government to reimburse expenses, as well as cover the loss of financial opportunities “owing to the incompetence of the North West government and its employees”.

The development is planned to be a low-density, rural, upmarket sustainable housing development, incorporating an airfield with hangar facilities. The environment-friendly houses will feature a solar power system producing a significant portion of the elec- tricity requirements.

Surplus power will be fed back into the national grid, while Eskom-generated power will provide a backup system.

Further, the previously unproductive agricultural land on which the estate will be built will be used to produce teff and lucerne feed for the resident horses. Manure from these horses will, in turn, be used to make compost, which could be used on a planned indigenous tree farm operation and at the paddocks.

Staples adds that, with the development of the estate, the company aims to train people from the surrounding area in stone masonry, while creating two black economically empowered companies to share in the busi- ness of organic gardens and tree farming.

He notes that other skills, such as estate management, equine management, aviation, security, building and farming, can be transferred to the community, creating more work opportunities.

“All infrastructure development require- ment approvals were received, together with our environmental-impact assessment approval, with just the final tribunal hearing required to proceed with the development,” Staples adds.

Meanwhile, other projects have also been affected by the disbanding of the tribunal. Amongst these are the National Department of Public Works’ town planning developments in the region which have been halted owing to the unavailability of land use approval by the tribunal.

The department issued an official letter to the North West provincial government in July last year; however, a source tells Engineering News that the department has still not received a response. “The department has decided to proceed to the next phase of design, as all the other [legislative hurdles] have been cleared. It informed the tribunal that, as a result of its failure to take a decision on this matter, the department is moving on with the project, as it cannot be delayed. It is a matter of budget,” he concludes.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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