More than 50 years after the Protea Village Community (PVC) in Bishopscourt was forcibly displaced by the Group Areas Act, environmentalists are mounting a legal challenge that could further stall their return to the land.

Cape Argus report says the Friends of Liesbeek (FoL) have lodged an application in the Western Cape High Court to halt the development because it believes ecological concerns – raised in the initial Environmental Impact Assessment – have not been adequately dealt with.

In 2006, the community was successful in its land claim, but 17 years later, many of the claimants have seen very little progress in returning to the land.

PVC Property Association chairperson Barry Ellman said the area’s land restitution has set a precedent as the first urban restitution project in SA with an innovative cross-subsidisation business plan, creating a model for others to follow.

However, because of the delays, most of the beneficiaries of that 2006 land restitution have aged, with some being in their eighties and facing the real possibility that they will never return to live on the land.

‘The cumulative financial impact extends into the millions, underscoring the substantial monetary sacrifices our community has endured,’ Ellman said.

The FoL said it had ‘no vested interests in property or found itself under any undue influence from neighbouring private property owners in relation to the proposed development’.

‘The issue is the “commodification” of land that is at the headwaters of the Liesbeek comprising wetlands, springs and “natural” land use cover that is responsible for regulating the water flow and quality in the Liesbeek, referred to as ERF212, which is the centre of the FoL’s objection,’ it said.

Full Cape Argus report