Con­cerns about con­struc­tio

Grocott's Mail - - OUTSIDE - Nick James

In­noWind (Pty) Ltd., the own­ers of Gra­ham­stown’s wind farm have re­cently pro­posed an ex­ten­sion to the ex­ist­ing wind en­ergy project with nine new tur­bines on the op­po­site side of How­i­son’s Poort to the ex­ist­ing in­stal­la­tion. This came to light in a pre­sen­ta­tion re­cently made to the Makana Coun­cil by In­noWind’s Project De­vel­oper, Dalu­vuyo Nt­se­beza. The pro­posal plans six tur­bines along the moun­tain ridge to the south of Feather­stone Kloof, on the South­ern Com­mon­age, and three more on Glen­thorpe Farm.

Key to the project is ac­cess to this moun­tain ridge, as it is sur­rounded on all sides ex­cept one by steep cliffs.

The only vi­able ac­cess route is via the 4km long gravel road lead­ing to The Olden­bur­gia Con­ser­vancy off the N2, close to the Stone Cres­cent Ho­tel.

This is the his­toric wagon road that for­merly con­nected South­well and Salem to Gra­ham­stown in the 19th Cen­tury. The road would re­quire com­plete re­build­ing, as it is both nar­row and steep.

On Glen­thorpe Farm the track that leads to the ridge top and the South­ern Com­mon­age would have to be re­mod­elled into a ma­jor ac­cess road, with cut­tings and wide curves to al­low the trans­port of long and heavy equip­ment up the steep moun­tain side.

Sen­si­tive and beau­ti­ful scenery

The project falls right in the cen­tre of the Olden­bur­gia Con­ser­vancy, in some of the most sen­si­tive and beau­ti­ful scenery of the Gra­ham­stown dis­trict.

This area is cur­rently also un­der threat from il­le­gal cat­tle graz­ing, and poach­ing by peo­ple us­ing snares.

In Novem­ber 2015 the Con­ser­vancy ini­ti­ated a process to ob­tain Pro­tected Area sta­tus from The East Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) for the land, in­clud­ing the Feather­stone Kloof part of the South­ern Com­mon­age, and this process is well un­der way.

This is an area of grass­land fyn­bos with high en­demic­ity (mean­ing that some plants are unique to this area), in­clud­ing sev­eral pro­tected plant species. It is Gra­ham­stown’s only pris­tine pub­lic area.

The pro­posed wind farm ex­ten­sion would strad­dle this area, re­duc­ing its value and at­trac­tion, and dom­i­nat­ing Feather­stone Kloof, Moun­tain Drive and sev­eral nearby farms.

Af­fected landown­ers would also ex­pe­ri­ence marked re­duc­tions in their land val­ues.

Viewed from Moun­tain Drive, the tur­bines would ex­tend in a line dom­i­nat­ing the south­ern flank of Feather­stone Kloof, as far as the large for­est that clings to the slopes at its east­ern end above Glen­stone and Bal­craig farms.

The ac­cess road would bi- sect the hill­top slope, scar­ring the steeper sec­tions with the nec­es­sary cut­tings, in an area that is cur­rently an undis­turbed area of moun­tain grass­land fyn­bos and king pro­teas, with many other rare plants such as ground or­chids, er­i­cas and tree ferns.

The Olden­bur­gia Hik­ing Trail, re­cently revamped at con­sid­er­able time and ex­pense over a three year pe­riod, would ef­fec­tively cease to ex­ist.

Right in the cen­tre point of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment, Riven­dell Farm, cur­rently one of the most pris­tine farms in the area, would be sur­round-

Pho­tos: Nick James

Viewed from Moun­tain Drive the op­pos­ing ridge would be dom­i­nated by six tur­bines.

Feather­stone Kloof after the wind­farm (photo graph­i­cally ma­nip­u­lated).

The scale of cut­tings and the ac­cess road that would be re­quired through the land.

Is this re­ally the fu­ture we want for our com­mon­age?

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