Crunch time for Brass Bell as city threatens action

The owner of the Brass Bell restaurant in Kalk Bay could face heavy penalties if controversial extensions at the restaurant near the Kalk Bay children’s tidal pool are found to be in contravention of environmental law.

The provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning is investigating and says if it confirms the extensions contravene the National Environmental Management Act, the Brass Bell could be ordered to demolish them and restore the site.

Brass Bell owner Tony White could face a fine of up to R1 million.

He may, however, apply to the department to keep the site as it is, but approval is not guaranteed and he may have to pay the R1m fine even if the department allows him to keep the decks in place.

The construction of two decks, doors and two access points near the Kalk Bay tidal pools and “private property” signs near the pool have outraged residents, who have called the extensions a “privatisation” and “takeover”.

For years, the public used the pools and moved freely through the area for walks. In recent weeks, members of the public on walks along the scenic route have been blocked when the Brass Bell’s doors have been shut.

The establishment’s management said doors would be locked late at night and opened early in the morning to protect the restaurant’s assets.

White leases the land from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa). He said he would not restrict public access to the swimming pools near the decks, but signs were erected near the small pool saying it was for the use of patrons under 10 years. He said the public had access to the two main pools, but that the children’s pool was on Prasa land.

White said yesterday: “As far as I am aware I have done everything that is legally required.

“The land in question, including the kiddies’ pool, had been in a state of neglect for the past 40 years. Nobody had shown any interest in it and it was almost never used, except by loiterers and the homeless, who would sleep overnight in the summer months.”

White said the area was now a useful amenity and he had received nothing but praise from patrons. Regarding access, White said the two tidal pools were not popular with the public and residents went to the more user-friendly Dalebrook pool.

“Those who use the tidal pools have not complained that access is hindered or denied by the new development,” White said.

He said the two doors at the access points were closed between 1am and 6.30am. Although there had been occasions when one door was not opened on time, this had not been intentional. “I am actively engaged with Prasa in making sure that the public has access at all reasonable times to the tidal pools,” White said.

The department is to carry out another inspection at the Brass Bell this week to confirm whether the decks are illegal.

Residents have complained to the city that public access has been cut off. They also say there was a lack of public consultation before the extensions were built.

The city lodgeda complaint with the provincial administration. The city’s view is that the construction of the decks contravenes the act.

Prasa has said that no environmental authorisation was obtained as the changes were deemed “minor works”.

City environmental management officials have disagreed and say Prasa may not issue approvals for construction in a seashore area within the 100m high-water mark.

Two weeks ago, city officials met Prasa representatives to discuss improved access for the public.

The city asked that public access be retained at all times, the area where the decks are be kept free of restaurant tables and activity, the area be allocated as a public space, all Brass Bell infrastructure be removed from the tidal pool area, no tent structures be allowed on the tidal pool walls, and the signs around the children’s pool be removed.

The city said it hoped Prasa would agree to the recommendations and ensured the Brass Bell complies. It would take legal action if necessary.

Cape Times

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