The authorities have carved out a piece of Table Mountain National Park on Chapman’s Peak Drive to build a luxury two-storey office for a private company.
The multimillion rand office will be used by Entilini, the company that operates the toll road.
It will be one of the most exclusive offices in the country, in a national park, with views overlooking Hout Bay and the Atlantic.
Entilini has spent R1.6 million on the preliminary design, and has been reimbursed by the province. Final design fees will be R5.7m. The external lighting will cost R1.8m. The public will pay R25m of the total R54m for the office and toll plaza.
Hout Bay residents are outraged and say building the office on park land is unlawful. They have called on Sanparks chief David Mabunda and Environment Minister Edna Molewa to halt construction immediately or they will go to court.
National parks are protected by tough laws and only a resolution by Parliament can withdraw any section of one. In this case, the Western Cape government changed the boundary of the Chapman’s Peak Drive road reserve to include over 2 000m2 of Table Mountain National Park. The office will be built on part of this land – rubber-stamped by SanParks.
There are construction huts on site and building is to start soon.
Entilini calls the office a “control building” to be built alongside the proposed four-lane toll plaza on Chapman’s Peak Drive. However, residents say the 500m2 building designed to accommodate 60 staff members is far more than that.
“It’s massive. They’ve got an HR office and a boardroom and an auditor’s office – what for? And why do we need four lanes for the toll? This isn’t Las Vegas. The existing toll booths are entirely adequate and should be left as is,” said Hout Bay Residents’ Association chairman Len Swimmer.
“They’re building this office for their own aggrandisement. Nobody can build in a national park, but they’ve been handed it on a platter. It’s on public land and the benefit to the public is zilch.”
The ground floor contains a reception area and offices for the plaza manager, secretaries, a foreman, internal auditor and human resources manager. It has a staff room with a television and kitchen, a large “control room”, cash room, technician’s workshop, archive, two cloakrooms with lavatories and showers, and two other lavatories. There is a “cash collection garage”, a large storeroom and a workshop. The office has its own sewerage plant.
The upper storey has a lobby/display area, kitchen, two cloakrooms and a storeroom, and offices for the general manager, a personal assistant and concessions manager.
Residents say the upper storey is designed for parties and functions. The concessions manager’s office has sliding doors that open into a large meeting room. This opens on to a covered terrace with a skylight. There is a “service” area. Sliding doors open on to a second terrace, covered by a pergola, that overlooks a landscaped roof terrace. There is another terrace on the roof.
Residents say allowing the block on park land was a “sweetener” from the province to Entilini for agreeing to renegotiate the concession agreement to make it less onerous on the provincial government. The office building plans have been stamped by Table Mountain National Park. Although the building will be on disturbed land, it is nevertheless in the national park.
Swimmer said: “There is plenty of vacant office space in Hout Bay they can occupy. Few people have seen these plans and when they do they will be shocked.”
Although the 2 100m2 of national park land was carved away by the stroke of a pen, this was not so when engineers wanted national park land to upgrade Hospital Bend on De Waal Drive. Then, BKS project manager Freek van Renssen told the Cape Times they had wanted to get only 75m2 of land from Table Mountain National Park to build the new Angio Road bridge. Van Renssen said then: “We tried to get it, but the Table Mountain National Park is protected by two acts of Parliament, and to get just one square metre of national park land you have to go to Parliament and change two acts. So we abandoned that.”
The Cape Times asked Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle why this was the case for national park land on one side of the peninsula but not the other. Carlisle knew no details of the Hospital Bend upgrade but said “nothing will make me believe” the proposed building was unlawful. Constructing the office required a “small incursion” into Table Mountain National Park “which was signed off by the CEO so it’s all above board”.
Lawyers acting for residents have written to authorities to say that national parks are protected at the highest level by the National Environment Management: Protected Areas Act, that a resolution of the National Assembly is required to withdraw any portion of land from a national park and that, because this has not happened, the proposed construction is unlawful.
Sanparks legal manager Sibusiso Nyembe said it was “looking at the issues”, while the Western Cape Premier’s Office wrote that it was obtaining legal advice.
Robert Pomario of Entilini Concessions did not want to comment.