Townhouses threaten protected milkwoods

The cordoned-off area showing the site of the proposed development in Empire Avenue. Picture: Joe Schwach.

A new development in Empire Avenue threatens to eradicate several protected white milkwood trees that are hundreds of years old, according to a Hout Bay resident.

White milkwoods (Sideroxylon inerme) are protected and cannot be damaged, moved or felled, according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s PlantZAfrica website, but Joe Schwach fears for the future of those in the vicinity of the proposed development.

“We, the residents of Hout Bay, are very concerned about the milkwood trees in Empire Avenue, which are planned to be destroyed in order to make way for a townhouse development in Oxford Street on the corner of Empire Avenue in Hout Bay.”

The Oxford Rise development was in the building-permit application stage and permission had been sought to cut down some of the milkwoods on Erf 9746 in Empire Avenue, he said.

City spokeswoman Tarryn Rinkwest said the proposed development “negatively affects” three milkwood trees on a private plot. She confirmed that the trees were protected under the National Forests Act of 1998, but Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment officials had visited the site last year and “indicated that they would have no objection to the removal and pruning of the affected milkwood trees”.

Mr Schwach said he believes that of the 17 milkwoods, nine would either be pruned or chopped and only eight would be left standing.

“It is incomprehensible that you encourage residents to plant new white milkwood trees and, at the same time, allow to cut down 300-or-more-years-old trees, which belong to the heritage of Hout Bay; to be destroyed willy-nilly for a property developer’s profit,“ he said.

Janene Loxton, the real estate agent representing the Oxford Rise developer, Vunani Dev Co, said: “The trees have been assessed and inspected by the City’s environmental department. They will be pruned by a horticulturalist. Everything will be done to the letter of the law in consultation with the authorities.”

The DFFE did not respond to questions by deadline.