Seven years after the controversial Blair Atholl Golf Estate was approved, subject to strict conditions to provide specific socio-economic benefits to the local community, few of the required benefits have materialised. Nonetheless, the upmarket estate continues without any official sanction or apparent pressure from authorities to meet its obligations.
Blair Atholl, sold to the developer, Wraypex, by golfing legend Gary Player, received approval to develop 330 upmarket residences, a hotel and a golf course, on 14 June 2005 despite hefty objections from environmental officials and surrounding landowners in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy (RNC).
The approval was granted solely on the basis that specific socio-economic benefits would outweigh the list of negative environmental consequences. According to the official documentation that gave Blair Atholl its approval: “this social benefit is at the heart of the authorisation granted and must be explicitly provided for in the Record of Decision”.
These benefits included the purchase and development of a neighbouring property (No 7 Rhenosterspruit) for 250 local black families - to run concurrently with the development of Blair Atholl itself. Today, seven years later, there is still no proper development for these families who are living in shacks without services on the property purchased for them.
"Socio-economic benefits"? Shacks on No 7 Rhenosterspruit
“This lack of official follow-through, to ensure that developers comply with strict conditions such as socio-economic benefits, is a betrayal of local communities that often don’t have a voice to protest against their neglect,” says Kristen Kallesen, chairperson of Just Environmental Action, a lobby group for appropriate planning and development.
“What has happened with Blair Atholl is symptomatic of the failure of government regarding developments across Gauteng where the political will and capability to demand adherence to legal requirements often seem to be severely lacking.”
In 2005 Wraypex sued five members of the RNC for R210 million for “damages and defamation”. The case finally went to court in November 2010. Judge Stanley Sapire ruled against Wraypex, in favour of the RNC, commenting negatively on the excessive amount Wraypex had sought and the aggression of the Wraypex attorney, Connie Myburgh, who had harrassed the RNC and many other objectors by letter and by phone. Judge Sapire granted punitive costs (attorney-to-client) against Wraypex.