Schoenmakerskop residents are fighting to stop a proposed sand mine that could destroy the historic World War 2 fortress observation post near the Port Elizabeth village.
The residents are worried that the mine, if approved, will also result in a dangerous situation on Victoria Drive because of heavy mining traffic and sand blown by the prevailing southwest wind from the 5ha site – situated about a kilometre out of Schoenmakerskop, just west of the road.
There is no mention of the WW2 building in the background information document prepared by Schoenmakers Mining, a holding company of Glendore Sand and Stone.
But residents who met at the site on Friday said project consultants had told them at a May 4 meeting at the Sacramento Restaurant that it would be removed.
“They specifically mentioned it,” Schoenmakerskop Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association committee member Elsabe Bowles said.
“They said because the building stands on top of the dune, it will be destroyed as they mine beneath it.
“What about its historical significance for the city and its tourism potential?”
Clayton Weatherall-Thomas, an environmental practitioner with the assessor, Algoa Consulting Mining Engineers, and speaking on behalf of Schoenmakers Mining, said the building fell within the proposed mining area.
“A Heritage Impact Assessment is under way to investigate the impact of the proposed mining on the heritage of the area, including the WW2 lookout Weatherall-Thomas said.
This assessment would be reviewed by the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
“If deemed necessary, the mining permit application site can be amended to avoid the WW2 lookout point,” he said.
The assessor argues that the dune on which the building stands is manmade, with the clues being its uniform height and that it does not run in the same direction as the other dunes in the area.
He said glass and porcelain shards, invasive plants and pioneer indigenous vegetation – the first to colonise disturbed ground – were the other clues. point,”
Richard Tomlinson, of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, said this contention was nonsensical.
“To place a building of the weight of the artillery fortress observation post on a manmade sand dune would be complete stupidity, and the military engineering department of the Union Defence Force was not stupid,” he said.
Built in 1939-40, the observation post and the steps leading up to it were the first instance of intervention by the Union Defence Force to protect this section of coastline, he said.
A technical hut for the coastal radar and staff was built in front of the observation post, and barracks were built down below between the dune and the road, with just the concrete floor and foundations now remaining.
“All these structures are protected by the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999,” Tomlinson said.
Schoenmakerskop residents’ association chairman Professor Andre Lemmer said the mining application maps were unclear and a further concern was that the proposed site was within the protected Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve/conservancy area.
Metro officials were not available for comment on the nature reserve matter and other questions sent to them.
Weatherall-Thomas said the traffic concerns raised by the residents, including possible damage to Victoria Drive by all the extra trucks, would be addressed in a specialist study within the environmental impact assessment.
However, regarding the particular concern about the proposed pump station road entrance on a hairpin bend, an alternative entrance via the servitude south of the site was being investigated, he said.