“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”  Over the years this truism has been attributed to many people from Thomas Jefferson to, lately, our own Desmond Tutu. Be that as it may, it is an undeniable truth and does not only apply to “freedom” or “liberty” but applies equally to many other things that are valuable to society and protection worthy.

One such thing is the environment in which we live, not just its cleanliness, but also other intangibles such as what is referred to as the “sense of place”; the natural surroundings, vistas, atmosphere etc that we often take for granted but only miss when they are gone. It is the things that make us want to live here, some others to aspire to do so and for many more to want to visit here and share in it even if just for a short time.

Plett’s marketing slogan; “It’s a feeling.” encapsulates it perfectly. If we harm that which comprises Plett’s “feeling” we harm Plett and ourselves. It is protection worthy and preserving it requires our eternal vigilance.

A perfect example where the Plett (wo)man-in-the-street exhibited the requisite vigilance to do so was the strong opposition to the proposed development of a small boat harbour and the impact it would have had on the “sense of place” or the “feeling” which is Plett.

Some years ago we all got to participate in the planning of the urban renewal of Plett which included identifying those things that make Plett what it is and ensuring that the plan would protect those valuable assets so that we don’t inadvertently destroy or even detract from them. Two of these that immediately spring to mind are Signal Hill and the historic Timber Shed.

Ironically both have come under threat lately.

As you may or may not be aware, there is an application to build a new boutique hotel in close proximity to the open area (Erf 252) of Signal Hill. A demolition order has been ordered for the existing structure, and then whether the application will continue is uncertain.  On the face of it, that seems quite acceptable, but it seems that the proposal will exceed current height restrictions etc which will detract from the unimpeded views that make Signal Hill such a popular view spot for locals and visitors.

Not only that, but it appears the parking bays required will either be on the roof of the building and provide a “car park” as foreground to the beautiful ocean views, or the parking bays for the hotel are to be excised for private use from public open space/parking on Erf 252 itself, to the detriment of the general public’s enjoyment of what has been identified in the urban renewal plan as preservation worthy public open space. Even though the proposed development is not on Erf 252 itself, its scale and positioning are such that it poses a real threat to the “feeling.”

The historic Timber Shed, a national monument, forms a vital component of the sense of place of the tranquil little valley it is set in.  A few years ago a B&B was established on a single residential property adjoining the shed. That in itself, providing proper town planning and public participation processes were followed to ensure that the change in land use does not negatively affect the shed in particular and the tranquillity of the area as a whole, should not pose a problem.

The B&B has, however, become more of an entertainment/restaurant/pub venue and its popularity requires additional parking as its patrons occupy public parking meant for visitors to the beach. It has been proposed that part of the erf on which the shed is located should be used for parking exclusive to the B&B/entertainment venue. Again, it is public open space which contributes to the sense of place, the much-vaunted feeling in “It’s a feeling.” that makes Plett what it is.

It is a fact that our public open spaces and areas which play a large and important part in making Plett a desirable place to live in and visit are constantly under threat. While one cannot and should not stop all development it is up to us, the public, to be ever vigilant and where necessary to be fearless in our opposition to inappropriate proposals that threaten to destroy that which we should hold dear and protect for future generations.

Be ever vigilant and play your part in the public processes that are there to protect your rights.  Although the Plett Ratepayers Association is monitoring it closely, don’t rely on us only, we will do as much as we can, and will rely on you to also play a role.

Len Swimmer

Planning and Land Use Portfolio

Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers Association

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Author: Markc