A LUXURY accommodation estate in Wilderness is taking Eskom to court, claiming the parastatal misled them about a multi-million rand powerline project that is now spoiling their previously pristine views.
The owners of the 16ha Clairewood, which belongs to the business Clairwood Chalets CC, however, lost their first battle in the Pretoria High Court this week when Acting Judge Piet van der Byl refused their application to stop Eskom from switching on the new power line.
They are also bringing a legal challenge against the environmental authority given to Eskom in 2009 to construct the power line in the highly sensitive area.
At the time the first urgent application was brought the new line had not been switched on yet and the old one was still fully operational.
Before an application for leave to appeal against Van der Byl’s judgment could be finalised, the power line was switched on.
Construction on the power line started in 2009. Before that, however, Eskom published a notice in several regional newspapers indicating their intention to replace the existing wooden pole power line from Blanco to the Knysna substation with a new 132 kV power line and that a combination of steel and concrete poles, pylons and cigar (double tapered steel) poles would be used depending on the topography of the area. The power line runs from Blanco to Knysna.
According to papers before court only pylons were erected on Clairewood’s property, marring their pristine views, and not the single poles they thought would be used.
Their legal team argued that tourism and the property’s unspoilt nature and mountain views would be severely affected by the power line.
In his judgment, Van der Byl said that bearing in mind the structures had already been completed, an interdict prohibiting Eskom from switching on the powerline would not remove their objection.
Clairewood Chalets are expected to argue that the environmental authority given to Eskom be set aside because Eskom had lied to residents about the size, height and nature of the pylons and poles that were to be erected, and had decided not to use single pole structures but did not convey this to residents.
They are further expected to argue that the structures eventually used were of such a nature that a visual impact assessment study should have been conducted on the surrounding environment.
The legal team for Clairewood Chalets further argued that the first time they knew what the structure for the new power line would look like was when Eskom started erecting the structures.
Van der Byl said that it was "an indisputable fact that, on the one hand, a delay in the project may result in load shedding affecting the municipal areas of Knysna, Sedgefield, Wilderness and Bitou providing electricity to thousands of households and hundreds of industries”.
At the same time, he said, Clairewood Chalets’ only objections were that the structures prejudicially affected tourism and the unspoilt natural beauty and mountain views that its property possessed in circumstances where the structures had already been erected.