The future of the proposed Bypass Road in Hermanus hangs in the balance after the Provincial Government rejected the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
According to the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) the EIR was rejected as it does not “adequately address all the pertinent issues and will require further revision or additional information before further consideration will be given to it”.
Henri Fortuin, Director of Development Management for the DEA&DP, said the decision was taken not to disqualify the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) at this time, but rather to allow them to revise or add additional information and resubmit the report.
“Should new information be submitted in the revised EIR it will be subject to a further round of public participation, during which additional comments and objections can be added,” said Henri in a letter.
According to Whale Coast Conservation Manager (WCC), Rob Fryer, this follows a letter penned by him in December 2017, wherein he questions the objectivity of the companies involved in drafting the EIR.
“Based on our experience throughout the public participation process, WCC has no confidence that its comments or those of other credible interested and affected parties will be given the consideration they are due by the EAP,” stated Rob’s letter.
He said that the EAP has consistently failed to correctly represent the arguments made in written submissions by WCC and other parties.
“We have submitted in writing that the EAP and the joint venture companies responsible for compiling the Traffic Impact Assessment are biased in favour of the by-pass as they stand to benefit financially from engineering contracts when the road is built.”
Hermanus to Gansbaai upgrade to go ahead
“The EAP has not been open to workable alternatives made by interested and affected parties as they have consistently dismissed the inputs as unavoidable, unimportant, irrelevant or not feasible. In particular, they have refused, without giving good reason other
than to say it is not feasible, to address demands that a full and proper assessment must be done of upgrading the so-called relief road (Royal Street),” said Rob.
The contention that the relief road cannot be brought up to the standard required by the Department of Transport and Public Works policy is not only incorrect, but is also inconsistent with the Western Cape Provincial Land Transport Framework which encourages creative situational accommodation of the needs of rural towns. The refusal to allow for the relief road alternative to be assessed objectively and comprehensively in the Environmental Impact Assessment is an illustration of how the EAP and the joint venture companies have had a predetermined outcome in mind, according to Rob.
Stephen Müller, Director of Infrastructure and Planning at the Municipality, said they will wait to receive the revised document once it is ready for public comment. “At this stage the only impact the dismissal of the EIR has on our plans is that it will in the longer term affect the regeneration of Hermanus Old Town as Main Road stays a provincial road for as long as it takes to build an alternative route.”
In short, the final EIA that was presented in December 2017 proposed that a 3 km long single carriage way (one lane in each direction) be built from the vicinity of the intersection between Main Road and Mountain Drive (near Gateway Centre) alongside Mountain Drive, running above the cemetery and the Sports Complex, then turning south in between the Cricket Club and Generation Schools, where it will meet Fairways Avenue before continuing between Eastcliff and the Golf Course and ending at a new circle in Main Road (near Eastcliff Spar). This is called the northern alignment.
There is also an alternative to this route (southern alignment) that runs in between Hermanus High School and the Sports Centre. Because of the high cost of building an underpass for learners and the fact that the road will cut the school off from the Sports Centre, this is not the preferred option.
The report stated that the lanes will be 3,7 m wide with a 1,8 m shoulder within a road reserve of 25 m. The proposed speed limit is 60 km/h and it is foreseen that a 3 m wide pedestrian walkway and cycle path will run alongside the road.
According to the report more than 500 comments were received during the four formal commenting periods of the last few years, with the vast majority of them being critical of the bypass.
The proposed route will have major impacts on both the Cricket Club and Generation Schools. With the proposed road cutting in to the cricket field they will be forced to move both their boundary and the pitch. This will have detrimental effects on their status as an accredited club that can host Boland matches. The club also stands to lose large sponsorships for improvements on the clubhouse and other infrastructure.
Stephen Müller said that in the mean time the upgrading of the R43 between Hermanus and Gansbaai will commence this year. According to the Western Cape budget a total of R255 million will be spent on the upgrade this year against a total cost of R683 million.
Stephen also indicated that the upgrade of the R43 between Fisherhaven and Sandbaai has been registered as a separate project by the Western Cape Government and it is expected that initial environmental Impact Assessments will begin in the next couple of years.