View of Walker Bay from the Cliff Path Photo: Hermanus Tourism

Why walk next to the busiest road in town if you can walk next to the sea?

This can be resolved if the Hermanus Cliff Path continues from Sea Road to Mollergren Park Retirement Village along the shoreline, in the same way, that the rest of the cliff path follows the coast from the New Harbour all the way to Grotto beach. It is most unfortunate that right in the middle of the route, the path abruptly turns away from the sea, forcing walkers to continue along the pavement of Main Road/R43.

The obvious thing to do is to connect the cliff path. Yet, for reasons that are outdated, the local municipality is still in denial and clings to an obscure policy of managing the area as a no-go area for the public. It is a real tragedy as this viewpoint prevents the municipality from materialising opportunities to extend the cliff path via Poole’s Bay on behalf of the public.

Such an opportunity is provided by the recently published municipal notice announcing an application for subdivision of Erf 12257, 15 Quantum Street, Eastcliff, Hermanus. Unless Sea Road has had a name change, this property is the former Steinhoff chief executive, Markus Jooste’s ‘big hole’.

The application for subdivision of erf 12257 provides the golden opportunity for the local municipality to apply the Integrated Coastal Management Act section 18(9) to secure longshore access to the coast by servitude right of way in favour of pedestrian access. Section 18(9) provides that “each municipality approving the rezoning, subdivision or development of a land unit within or abutting on coastal public property must ensure that adequate provision is made in the conditions of approval to secure public access to that coastal public property, which includes the seashore.” The law couldn’t be clearer.

A report released in September last year by the Western Cape Government on coastal access to the Overberg coastline identified Poole’s Bay as site Her12 and explicitly states on page 116 of the report that “[t]his is a conflict area and the right of access for the public needs to be resolved”. The municipality now has the opportunity to resolve the matter on behalf of the public.

The coastline in front of erf 12257 is particularly tricky. High cliffs and the rugged terrain make access difficult. The current informal footpath that hugs the coast is in many places above the high water mark and is therefore technically, on private property. The municipality has the mandate to secure access for the public to the coastline and to envisage the continuation of the cliff path via Poole’s Bay.

We cannot leave this in the hope that the municipality will act on behalf of the public. The same opportunity for subdivision happened in 2013 when the original erf 1233 owned by Gavin Relly was subdivided. The Relly subdivision application pointed out the need to continue the cliff path along the shoreline of the property. Several similar opportunities presented themselves over the past few years as the Jooste property underwent applications for consolidation as well as development.

The Cliff Path Action Group is busy with a community-funded project to extend the cliff path along Poole’s Bay. In the regulatory environment of 2019, building a concrete structure is infinitely more complex than the process followed by the founders of the cliff path, Eric Jones and Ion Williams, many decades ago. The current process involves an extensive environmental authorisation process that takes more than a year to conclude. Once this process is completed it will make the task at hand so much easier and more cost-effective if a servitude is in place for the cliff path to counter the challenging topography of the coastline in front of erf 12257.

We would like to encourage members of the public to request the municipality to make provision for the extension of the cliff path in front of erf 12257. Written comments need to be submitted before 24 May to aconradie@overstrand.gov quoting your name, address and contact details, your interest in the application and reasons for comment.

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