EIA Delayed Due to Fears for Smuts Family Farmhouse

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BYLINE: ANEL POWELL

THE Final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the new R5-billion cement factory in Riebeek West has been delayed by concerns that historical buildings belonging to the family of statesman and former South African prime minister Jan Smuts could be demolished.

A detailed heritage impact assessment of Farm 1176 on the Delectus site, one of the preferred options for the expansion of a cement factory for Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC), was not included in the final EIA that was lodged for public comment in September.

Heritage Western Cape (HWC) has, after site visits last year, challenged PPC's proposal to demolish farmhouses on the site and asked for a more detailed heritage assessment.

Consultants for the project Ninham Shand said that, as this new information would be included in the EIA, all documents relating to the site drafted since September should be put out for a 30-day public comment period.

The deadline for comment is February 27 and once these responses have been reviewed, the EIA report will be sent to the Department of Environmental Affairs for consideration and decision by the middle of the year.

Construction on the multi-billion rand project is expected to start this year, with completion set for 2012.

Patrick Kane, of the Riebeek Valley Environmental Forum (RVEF), said the possible demolition of the farm houses was the "lesser of two evils".

If the factory was expanded on the Vlakkerug site, saving the buildings on the Delectus site, the impact on the visual landscape of Riebeek West would be greater. …