Uproar over plans for new haven

Colleen Glen residents against building of centre for abused women and kids

Colleen Glen residents plan to petition the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to halt the construction of a centre that assists abused women and children in Port Elizabeth. The Bet Sheekoom Centre is located in Forest Hill but plans are in place to move it to bigger premises in Colleen Glen.

But about 50 residents attended a residents’ association meeting on Tuesday where concerns about construction of the new centre were raised.

Some of the concerns included the impact on the suburb’s ageing infrastructure as it had no formal sewerage and waste disposal services.

The Bet Sheekoom Centre was established in 2001 and caters for destitute, abandoned or abused women and children.

Meeting convener Jacki Botha said the petition would call for the halting of all planned developments in the area.

She said this would be done to have various application processes reviewed.

Botha said the biggest gripe was that residents were not properly informed about the developments.

“We have to be honest, we will not like every application that is made in the area. All we want is transparency and to know what changes are being made to our community,” she said.

“I have e-mailed the applicable parties at the municipality and requested that anything to do with these developments is [stopped] immediately, with a petition to follow.

“This is our area and we want to be part of the management of it.”

Botha said the petition would ask that the municipality conduct a proper public participation process, a traffic and environmental impact study, and a detailed site plan which outlines what new applicants want to build on their properties.

Bet Sheekoom project manager Shelley Koekemoer said yesterday she was not aware of the meeting by residents.

“But I’m not surprised that people feel that way. It is a concern of theirs but it is an isolated home and there won’t be any comings and goings of unsuitable elements,” she said.

“We don’t take walk-ins, visitors are strictly controlled and monitored.

“I understand that there would be concern because there is no understanding of what we do and why we do it.”

Koekemoer said construction of the centre would go ahead despite the objections as they just needed municipal approval of the building plans.

The centre was founded and is run by Koekemoer and her husband Gary.

The Forest Hill premises caters for 14 women but they hope to increase this number to 25 when the Colleen Glen building is ready.

The application to rezone the property to be used as a shelter was advertised in newspapers.

“This gave people the opportunity to object but none were received,” Koekemoer said.

She said she was happy to sit down with the residents to discuss their issues.

Colleen Glen resident Natalie Dil said she was not against the centre but just the manner in which the information about it was conveyed to residents.

“The reason for the meeting was because a lot of residents might not know what’s happening,” she said.

“It affects all of us, because if this [application] goes through who will stop the next person from doing the same thing.”

Resident Kalp Mostert said there were other sites to construct the centre that would have a lesser impact on the existing infrastructure.

Bruce Pocock, chairman of the former ratepayers’ association in Colleen Glen, said the site was not appropriate for the building of the centre.

He raised concerns about the potential strain on existing infrastructure such as water supply, roads, stormwater, waste removal and sewerage.

“Colleen Glen does not have formal sewerage networks but makes use of septic tanks and french drains,” Pocock said.

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