A levy collected from a small group of residents in a special rating area (SRA) for a beach upgrade has stirred up a hornets’ nest in St Francis Bay, with the fight going all the way to the SCA, reports Weekend Post.

On the one side of the battle is the St Francis Bay Property Owners’ Association and the Kouga Municipality, which facilitated the special rating area to allow for the levy to be collected.

On the other, is the Concerned Residents’ Association, which wants the levy reduced and paid by everyone in the town, not just those in the SRA.

In April last year, the Eastern Cape High Court (Gqeberha) upheld the contention of the Concerned Residents’ Association that the way the special rating area was established was unlawful.

The Kouga Municipality appealed against the ruling and the matter was heard in the SCA on 13 November 2023. 

The outcome is awaited. Concerned Residents’ Association founder Angela Cadman said though it was clear the beach needed urgent attention, the way the levy was being collected was unacceptable.

‘Before the process was suspended by the court action, the levy was being paid by 1 600 residents in the village and canals sections of the town. ‘Many of these residents are pensioners who are struggling financially. If the levy is spread across the whole town, as it should be, it will hopefully be reduced.’

She noted the Concerned Residents’ Association has not been against a SRA levy – just the way it was promulgated.

The Property Owners’ Association has collected R32m over the past five-and-a-half years, notes the Weekend Post report. This allowed it to implement security and road upgrades and to pay for an environmental impact assessment of its beach rescue plan aimed at protecting the multimillion rand beachfront homes from ocean surges, and boost tourism and investment.

With an authorisation from the Environment Department in hand, the project will now either begin next year or be quashed, depending on what the SCA decides. 

Property Owners’ Association chair Wayne Furphy said it was watching the matter closely.

He said the argument from the Concerned Residents’ Association, which led to the High Court ruling – that the levy was being unfairly applied to only some residents while the beach upgrade in particular would benefit all – made no sense. Furphy said the property association had initially proposed levying the whole town and Cadman’s group had objected.

‘Something urgently needed to be done about the beach so we rethought how we should apply the levy and, after getting the necessary votes, pressed ahead. It seems this group just doesn’t want to pay any levy.’

Full Weekend Post report