Frustration builds over beach fence

ATHINA MAY

Milnerton residents are fuming about the fence outside Leisure Bay and Woodbridge Island on Lagoon beach, as parts of it now lie in tatters below the water.

The fence went up in 2011 to help with “dune rehabilitation”.

Residents taking a walk on the beach bordering Woodbridge Island can see the spokes of the fence protruding from the water it is submerged in, and a rusted “Dune rehabilitation” sign peeking out at the top.

Former Woodbridge Island body corporate chairman Richard Rundle had said the fence would be able to withstand the elements, however, today the fence has crumbled under the pressure of the waves, and prevents beachgoers from seeking refuge on the dunes during high tide (“Beach estate or prison camp?” Tabletalk May, 18, 2011).

Concerns regarding the state of the fence were aired on the Milnerton Neighbours Facebook group by those who had seen the broken fence, with Jason Smith saying that if the fence is in the high water mark, it’s on what is regarded as public land.

“It clearly is a security fence excluding the general public from their ‘fair-use’ and aesthetic enjoyment of an ’unspoilt’ environment,” he added.

Ruan Smith said: “I can’t see how they are going to “rehabilitate” the dunes if the sea pushes pass the fence onto the dunes. Last time I checked the sea couldn’t read.”

Beach goers who are unaware of the fragmented fence are left with no warning of the danger which it could present. They are also unable to walk on the beach during high tide, and seek refuge from waves on the dunes, which is blocked by the fence.The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) investigated the legality of the fencing structure outside Woodbridge Island and Leisure Bay and served both those body corporates with compliance notices (“Leisure Bay dune fence ‘illegal’” Wednesday, February 24).

The DEA then stated that based on observations made during a site inspection, they had reasonable grounds to believe that the construction of a fence on coastal public property is contrary to Section 13 of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act.

The act states that access to coastal public property should not affect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the coastal public property and should not hinder the state in the performance of its duty to protect the environment.

However, when the Woodbridge Island Body Corporate was approached for comment, the body corporate manager, who refused to be named, said no notice regarding the legality of the fence was served to the body corporate. The manager said the department visited the establishment on several occasions and thought the fence was “fine”.

“They (the DEA) think our fencing is fine. The information is not correct as the fence is not on public land, it’s on private land.

“The piece of fence at the end is a problem as part of it is submerged in sand and water and we do have plans to remove it. We have put it further back because it currently is under water,” said the body corporate manager.

DEA spokesman Zolile Nqayi said the body corporate responded to the notice they were given and indicated that the area fenced off is within their property boundary.

However, Mr Nqayi stated the fence is affecting access to the coastal public property, which needs to be rectified.

“The fence is below the high water mark, the department needs to rectify this to ensure access to coastal public property by all citizens of this country. The department needs to investigate all structures within the coastal public property, and deal with those that were illegally built or are causing adverse effects to the environment,” said Mr Nqayi.

When asked how long it would take before residents would see any action taken over the fence issue outside Woodbridge Island, Mr Nqayi said he was unsure as the matter could end up in court.

Although the fence remains on the beach, the Woodbridge Island Body Corporate has plans to remove the section of fence currently submerged in water and has stated this will be done as soon as possible.