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Court case fails to halt wind farm

The first concrete cast for the Blue Horizon Bay nine-turbine wind farm was laid on Friday despite opposition from Nelson Mandela Bay councillors. They want the project put on hold until a legal dispute by residents of the area is concluded.

Residents have also applied for a high court interdict to halt the development.

The case is expected to be heard sometime in the next two weeks.

Further, residents have appealed against an environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval by the Environmental Affairs Department, saying the assessment is flawed and does not take the views of the public into account.

Construction on the R550-million project began three months ago.

But the concrete foundation for the first wind turbine was poured only on Friday.

Commercial operation of the wind farm is expected to start in September and it will generate about 80000MW of clean electricity a year – enough, say the developers, to provide power for 6000 homes.

Also, about 300 homes in the area will receive electricity for the first time.

Councillors who sit on the human settlements portfolio committee approved a motion of exigency tabled by COPE councillor Rano Kayser. He urged that the windfarm be placed on hold until the appeals process was concluded.

Kayser, UDM and ANC councillors were angry that officials in the human settlements department bypassed the committee and took Metrowind’s rezoning application directly to mayor Zanoxolo Wayile.

He signed off on the plans to construct the wind farm as a special consent.

Kayser said: “When this Metrowind item came up in council, the committee requested it be deferred as there was confusion over the application because currently the zoning regulations do not make provision for renewable energy. The officials begged the committee for it to be sent to the mayoral committee, but we refused.

“But they ignored us and took it directly there, and the mayor approved it.”

The motion has not yet been approved by the full council. It was supposed to be discussed at a meeting in December, but part of the meeting was adjourned.

The Blue Horizon Bay community are not backing down from their quest to stop the project, saying the turbines will ruin the area’s agricultural land. Resident Peet Vermaak said: “As far as we’re concerned this project is not supposed to go ahead.

“We have applied for an urgent interdict to stop the construction because we have appealed against the granting of the EIA.

“In our opinion the assessment was flawed because figures were understated compared to what they [Metrowind] are actually planning to put up.”

Vermaak is also adamant that public participation procedures were not properly implemented.

Concerns included the proximity of the turbines to homes, the wind farm causing the value of properties to drop, and turbines being a noise nuisance.

Rubicept director Ian Curry, whose firm was awarded the construction contract, said they had tried to speak to the community to allay fears, but they refused.

“[We are] aware of the litigation and the matter is being dealt with by [our] attorneys,” Curry said.

“As matters stand, the developer is fully entitled to continue with the construction phase of the project and has every intention of doing so.”

The company had already installed solar-powered streetlights in surrounding areas as part of the social upliftment programme, Curry added.