A newly-erected cement fence and two gates – closing off the Pellsrus beach park in Jeffreys Bay – has sparked controversy between residents and the Kouga Municipality.
Prompted by ongoing vandalism, muggings and various other criminal elements in the area, some Pellsrus-residents claim that no alternative strategies were explored to resolve the problems that the fence seeks to address.
Community leader and owner of the Jeffreys Bay non-profit organisation, Masikhathalelaneni, Freddy van Rooyen, said, “None of the property owners and residents in the area were either notified or consulted about the proposed fence.
“Our experience of the park as nearby residents is of a fully functional, safe, clean, beautiful and well-organised open space.
“We are not aware of serious crime and any other anti-social issues; however, if the fence was erected to solve these problems, we consider it an irrational and exorbitant response that will not resolve, but rather exacerbate it.
“As residents, we are being dishonoured and our right of free access to the park is deprived by the municipality.”
Kouga Community Services Portfolio Councillor, Daniel Benson, said the fencing project – forming part of ongoing renovations to the popular picnic and braai spot – was officially handed over to the municipality by the contractor last week.
“We would like to apologise that the park could not be accessed by residents ahead of the hand-over,” he said.
“The municipality received the keys to the new gates last week.
“Both the pedestrian and vehicle gates in the boundary fence are now open and those wishing to exercise in the park, as per the national COVID-19 regulations, can now do so.”
He said that while the boundary gates would remain open, the ablution facilities would be locked while the COVID-19 beach ban was in place.
“All beach ablution facilities have been locked since the lockdown started and will remain so while beaches are off limits for recreational use.
“We would like to remind residents that public parks are also not yet open for recreational purposes but only for those wanting to exercise. This is in line with the national lockdown regulations.”
He said the fencing was part of ongoing upgrades to the park, as per the ward priorities identified in consultation with communities and captured in the Integrated Development Plan.
“Stakeholders living in the surrounding area had requested that the park be fenced as they were concerned that criminal elements, including those responsible for muggings in the vicinity, were using the park to avoid capture.
“This was also the experience of safety and security teams during the recent festive season,” he said.
“It was therefore decided to prioritise the installation of the fence. Limiting access through the gates will make it more difficult for culprits to use the park as a hide-out or as a short cut to escape.”
He said vandalism was also a challenge and he urged residents to report suspicious activities to law enforcement authorities.
“The ablution facilities at the park were upgraded at a cost of more than R250 000 before the festive season last year,” he said.
“Since then, the facilities have been vandalised to such an extent that most of this work will have to be redone.”
He said the upgrade of the park would continue this financial year. “The ablution facilities will have to be repaired, which will impact on how much else can be done this year. We will, however, be installing extra braai stands.”
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