A second public meeting has been called for this week in Onrus after residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed new ablution block at Onrus beach.

This comes after a public meeting was held on 1 October to try and find answers to the many questions concerned residents had. The meeting was adjourned after no consensus could be reached on the proposed plan and Cllr Jean Orban promised a second meeting.

The dissatisfaction comes after architect’s drawings of the proposed development were published on social media in August by Orban. In the post he said the sketches were the culmination of much planning and hard work.

“The total project cost is R1.5 million, which is additional to our ward specific funding of R500 000. Since Onrus beach was included as a pilot Blue Flag beach last year, we have to make sure that our facilities are on par and suitable. Our beach is very busy and the tiny facilities next to the Milkwood Restaurant just didn’t cut it anymore. They will remain in place as facilities for the disabled only.

“None of the milkwood trees will be removed, and the design has incorporated the tree tunnel. There will be a beach kiosk, men’s and ladies’ facilities as well as a storeroom for life savers’ equipment. The five parking bays at the lower section will be removed but the loading zone, motorcycle parking and disabled parking bays will remain. There will be access from Wylle Park with a bridge to the roof of the facility, which will double up as a look-out point with benches. There will be steps going down to the lower section, which will join up with the other pathway. The lockdown has caused a small delay, but the project will soon be advertised for tenders etc. I will keep the public up to date with the progress of this project,” reads the report posted on Facebook by Orban.

In the wake of the post many residents expressed their dissatisfaction at both the location and design of the ablution facility. At the meeting last week residents demanded that additional plans should be considered and that answers must be given as to how public participation and a needs analysis on the project was done. The cost of the project was also questioned.

According to Orban the project has been part of the independent development plan (IDP) for Ward 13 for a number of years. He said that it was up to the Ward Committee members to inform their constituents of the plans and therefore proper public participation had taken place.

“Public participation has taken place in the form of ward committee meetings. The ward committee is made up of member organisations in the ward such as the Onrus Estuary Forum, the Onrus Homeowners’ Association, OnVerWag, and Vermont Ratepayers Association. Every year the ward IDP is compiled and updated. The IDP is the wants and needs of our ward, this in turn gets compiled with all the other wards to form the municipal IDP. All these organisations are meant to work with their constituents and then represent them on the ward committee. The ward committee also has four public meetings every year. So, in that sense, extensive public participation has taken place. Also, I have reported on this various times in the past. There is no public participation on the exact design of the building,” Orban said.

However, committee members shot back, saying that while the necessity of an upgrade to the ablution block to meet Blue Flag criteria was mentioned to the Ward Committee during their ward tour last year, they never received any further feedback.

Committee member Caroline Gabb said: “At no stage were we consulted, nor have we had any input into this project. The first we saw of it is the same as everyone else, on the social media post. To suggest that extensive public participation has taken place is a bit misleading in my opinion. It has not been presented to the Ward Committee in context and we have not had an opportunity to comment.”

Hennie Greeff of the Onrus Homeowners’ Association said it was proposed to Orban that the project be suspended, subject to a proper needs analysis, and also to further engage with residents and business owners. “It was also requested that a working group be established to address the issues at hand,” he said.

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