Langebaan Goes Ballistic Over Boom
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Langebaan Goes Ballistic Over Boom

Caitlin Ross

7 October 2009

The erection of a swivel-boom on the road between Langebaan and the West Coast National Park by property developers has enraged members of the Langebaan community who have fought a 20-year battle against development on the land.

Concerned Langebaan residents say it’s the latest move by the developers to intimidate members of the community and a step towards the target of shutting off access to the road entirely.

The road is one of the two that lead directly to the West Coast National Park and the only one that links it to the town of Langebaan, and the question over whether or not the road is private or public is being disputed by both sides.

Developers Dormell 391 issued an official statement saying their proposed housing development in the buffer zone between the park and the Langebann urban edge – which is opposed by SANParks, the West Coast National Park and local community groups – has for five years been unfairly denied approval.

Dormell 391 claim to have a zoning certificate and the approval of a final court order for township development and if their development continue to be stymied will change their “current goodwill” of allowing the public to use the road and close it off, denying access to the park’s northern gate and the beach at Shark Bay.

“The boom has been installed as the property is private property and we reserve the right to close it at our discretion and if our applications are not now finalized and the company continues to be so unfairly prejudiced,” stated the company.

But various parties have rubbished the claim that the road is private property, saying it is a proclaimed public road under the jurisdiction of the district municipality. Email correspondence between convenor of the Langebaan Action Group, Johan Ackron, and Pieter Pienaar of the Department of Transport and Public Works, contains maps showing the road is marked “Afdelingspad 1162â-‘, a public road, the obstruction of which is illegal.

Manager of the West Coast National Park, Xola Mfeke, said he was “very concerned that traffic will be blocked” as 45 per cent of the Park’s visitors (about 50 000 of the 130 000 people annually) enter the park through the northern gate.

“I don’t believe he has a legal right to do it. I contacted the roads department in Ceres and they confirmed that it’s a public proclaimed road. I’m just not happy that he has not consulted the neighbours in doing something major like that. It’s not nice to wake up and see a boom outside your park. He’s promised that he would not close it but I’m prepared to open an interdict against him if he does,” said Mfeke.

The point of dispute arises over the fact that in 1991 the road was realigned from a gravel road, Ou Wit Pad, to the tar one currently in use. The realignment constituted a shift of 700 metres at its extremity and therefore did not require re-proclamation. The original gravel alignment of Divisional Road 1162 along the lagoon edge has, because of the realignment, fallen into disrepair and is no longer appropriate for alternative vehicular access to the Park. Ackron said that in the confrontation that has arisen over the opposition to the development proposals, the developers have at various points expressed the intention of impeding access to the Park over the land traversed by the said road 1162.

In addition to the boom, fencing and signage posts have been introduced at various points along the road to the park gate. Ackron said that “no development permission has been granted” regarding the land (Oostewal 292) that would motivate such structures. Ackron is petitioning the district roads engineer, who is currently out of office, to have all the structures removed.

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