Leisure Bay dune fence ‘illegal’

Athina May

The national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) says the Leisure Bay apartment block’s dune fence on Lagoon Beach is illegal and denies citizens access to a public beach.

The structure went up in March last year and had many residents questioning its legality. It was not the first structure the apartment block had erected in the name of “dune rehabilitation”.

In 2013 the Leisure Bay body corporate created a sandbag barrier from the wooden walkway on the beach towards the block of flats.

The City of Cape Town condemned the structure for flouting regulations, including illegal mining of sand on the beachfront (“A sandy saga at beach,” Tabletalk, June 19 2013).

Taking issue with the the body corporate’s latest construction efforts, the DEA says the fence violates the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). It has served the body corporate with a notice saying: “Based on the observations during the site inspection, and information contained in a written letter by a member of the public, the department has 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.

“It is our view that the fence is denying citizens access to coastal public property,” said DEA spokesman Zolile Nqayi.

Mr Nqayi said the body corporate was expected to respond to questions in the notice. If the DEA deemed the answers unsatisfactory, it would issue a compliance notice demanding the fence’s removal.

Residents have complained about the fence since it was built, saying it’s a hazard to beachgoers who are occasionally left stranded on the Spinnaker dunes, as the fence blocks their escape when the tide comes in.

“The fence is potentially life threatening and a hazard, particularly during winter high tides and oncoming storm surges. This is because retreating to the elevated height of the dunes is impossible and hazardous to the general public,” said resident Jason Smith said (“State to probe block’s sea fence,” Tabletalk, July 15).

Lagoon Beach resident Erin Miles recently helped rescue a seagull which had been caught in the fence.

“My dog found the bird struck in the fence. I wondered why on earth the bird was sitting still when my dog ran up to it. I then called my neighbours who helped me rescue the bird.

“The tide comes up pretty high and the fence does nothing for security purposes. There is a gap between the fence and the sand where dirt is collected. Personally, I think the fence is dangerous for kids and animals,” said Ms Miles.

According to Leisure Bay body corporate consultant, Richard Rundle, the fence was approved in terms of an environmental management plan lodged with the City of Cape Town, and Mr Rundle said it fell within the Leisure Bay property lines.

He said he was unaware of the DEA notice, but assumed the body corporate would oppose it on the grounds that the City had confirmed the fence was on the apartment block’s property line.

“The fence is the only way to protect the dunes … To see where this is going to go will be interesting,” said Mr Rundle.

The body corporate refused to comment, but Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said no official high-water mark had been determined to decide whether the fence was on Leisure Bay property.

“The City is currently undertaking a specialist review of the entire Milnerton coastline, as a number of legislative issues are unclear. At the centre of this review is the official location of the high-water mark. Until that issue is resolved, the City will not act on the fence which may or may not have transgressed the high-water mark.

“The City respects the right of the DEA to issue a notice and will keep a watching brief of the process as it unfolds.”