STOP unsustainable developments in Wilderness

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Proliferation of walls, fences and other barriers in Wilderness

We, the undersigned residents of Wilderness object to the proliferation of barriers, especially walls and fences, which are largely impenetrable to wildlife, around the perimeter of smallholdings in Wilderness Heights and elsewhere. These barriers not only have a negative impact on biodiversity but are a blot on the landscape, an eyesore which detracts from the natural beauty of Wilderness Heights, a rural landscape. In addition, they are not supported by the George Municipality Spatial Development Framework (GMSDF) (2019) which makes multiple references to the conservation of biodiversity and the importance of corridors across the landscape. The Framework explicitly states that “valuable view corridors, undeveloped ridge lines, cultural landscape assets and existing vistas should not be compromised by any development proposal or cumulative impact of development proposals. The proportion of urban development up the slope of a prominent hill or mountain should not degrade its aesthetic / visual value”.

In this regard we are specifically concerned about developments on farm 158/19 (Wilderness Heights). We are of the opinion that the recent construction of a wall around this smallholding is contrary to what is outlined in the GMSDF and other relevant legislation and guidelines. Below are our main concerns:

·       The smallholding contains vegetation which is considered to be rare and threatened. Some of the vegetation on the property has been identified as part of a Critical Biodiversity Area (CBA). The Western Cape Biodiversity Spatial Plan Handbook (2017) states that barrier fencing should not be located in Critical Biodiversity Area (CBA) corridors;

·       Indigenous vegetation was removed without the required permits as required by the Outeniqua Sensitive Coastal Area (OSCA) regulations. Adjoining neighbours have been legally obligated to acquire OSCA permits for any developments in the past but as far as we are aware no OSCA permits were ever issued for this particular development;

·       According to our sources in the George Municipality the perimeter wall was built without planning permission and is as such an illegal structure;

·       The landowners have now applied for a departure from the current restrictions as outlined in the George Integrated Zoning Scheme by-law pertaining to the height of the wall which exceeds the allowable maximum height of 2.1 m (Clause 27). This for a wall which according to the Municipality is illegal;

·       Neighbours were not consulted prior to the construction of the wall;

·       The wall prevents the free movement of wildlife across the landscape;

·       The wall is an eyesore and can be seen kilometres away, including from Dolphin Point and even the SASOL garage on the N2 on the outskirts of George;

·       This wall sets a dangerous precedent that could completely change the character of Wilderness Heights and other areas on the Garden Route forever.

We the undersigned residents demand that action be taken against the landowner for flagrantly disregarding the law and would ultimately like to see the wall demolished. We are increasingly dissatisfied with a host of related developments that are disregarding planning laws and guidelines throughout Wilderness.