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Plett hotel owner caught between a rock and a hard law

Janine Oelofse eProp
Plett hotel owner caught between a rock and a hard law


The owner of a luxury Plettenberg Bay guesthouse spent the weekend illegally piling boulders at the base of his house on the lagoon edge to save it from being washed away.



His action raised debate over his right to save the guesthouse from the elements versus environmental law which prohibits construction in a lagoon.

Milkwood Manor owner Thys Groenendijk urgently contracted engineers to stop the Keurbooms River completely destroying his guesthouse after the river came down in flood on Thursday.

Residents from all over the resort town rushed down to where Lookout Beach once was to watch as contractors in trucks, bulldozers and diggers tried to build a wall of boulders to hold back the impending high tide and the shifting river mouth. The previous high tide stopped two metres short of the guesthouse‘s walls.

The popular beach nearby was washed away in the floods and a large section of the parking lot, as well as Groenendijk‘s front garden, swimming pool and parking area were ripped into the ocean when the Keurbooms burst its banks.

Milkwood Manor and Lemon Grass restaurant is a four-star, 12-bedroom establishment that has become an icon in the town. Twenty-five guests were urgently evacuated on Thursday night when the house was surrounded by water, although it did not reach the inside.

When the house was originally built, the river mouth was at least 2km away in the Nature‘s Valley direction.

Over the years it has shifted slowly closer and yesterday reached the rocks on which the popular Lookout Deck restaurant is built.

Last year in August when the river flooded, massive chunks of the beach were reclaimed by the lagoon, and surfers replaced sunbathers.

Groenendijk had consulted experts when he realised his hotel was in the way of the shifting river mouth, and had planned to build a wall to hold the encroaching lagoon back.

He said on Thursday experts had predicted that the water would take another two years to reach his property. But his time frame shrank alarmingly when the river flooded on Thursday evening, prompting urgent action.

Claire Craxton, of the Plettenberg Bay Environmental Forum, said according to the National Environmental Management Act no building was allowed in a tidal zone.

The proper procedure was to do an environmental impact assessment after which the department of environmental affairs and tourism could grant permission to build.

Officials from both Cape Nature and the department were not available for comment.

 

The Herald


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