Supporters and SDCEA members gathered outside the Durban High Court.
Durban High Court was a scene of jubilation for Durban South communities on Wednesday, 13 February when Judge Rashid Vahed granted leave to appeal and reserved costs in the ongoing battle to challenge the provincial government’s approval for the re-development of the former racecourse into a logistics park.
Since 2012, communities have opposed the development and conversion of the Clairwood Racecourse, which was valued for its recreational, entertainment, safety and green lung features.
READ: SDCEA plans to counter racecourse freight park plan
According to South Durban Community Environmental Alliance’s (SDCEA) Desmond D’Sa, the site was in existence for almost a hundred years as a horseracing venue and it was highly valued for its recreational benefit and biodiversity.
“The SDCEA has fought hard to ensure this beautiful garden course is not lost. However, the racing fraternity sold the land without communicating this to the local supporters, for fear of people speaking out. We have seen once historical buildings and beautiful lawns taken down by bulldozers and destroyed. The safety zone we ran to when there were explosions, fires or gas leaks was no longer accessible to the thousands of Merebank and Wentworth residents. In place, we have seen massive logistic parks and huge tractors and trucks roaming our community roads and freeways.”
He said Judge Vahed had restored their faith in the judicial system. Being granted an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal will afford them an opportunity to exercise their right to place their arguments before five judges.
According to development manager of Fortress REIT Ltd, Nico Prinsloo, the logistics park is expected to create around 19,000 jobs in the construction period as well as opportunities for skills and enterprise development. It will also create thousands of jobs after completion.
READ: Protestors list logistics park concerns to developers
“We await the notice of appeal and will deal with it when it comes. The logistics park, comprising some 350,000-m2 of warehousing and large yards, would be one of the country’s most innovative distribution hubs. Not only will it meet the growing demand for A-grade logistics and distribution facilities in South Durban, but it will also improve the livelihoods of surrounding communities through job creation,” he said.
He explained that they are committed to being ‘good neighbours’ and have taken all the necessary steps to adhere to the law. “A seven-hectare wetland has been rehabilitated to accommodate existing animals and plants and attract new species, ultimately becoming an important community resource. Fortress has purchased 72-ha of offset land adjacent to the Tugela River mouth to preserve endangered grassland. It will also support the rehabilitation of the Van Riebeeck Park wetland project on the Bluff,” he said.