In this age of growing environmental consciousness, SA’s property developers are regularly criticised for seemingly widespread habitat destruction and a general disregard for environmental impact assessments. In many cases, land is cleared down to the last blade of grass with scant consideration for the effect certain developments have on surrounding waterways, wildlife and land.
This is not the case at the new master-planned Westbrook development on Port Elizabeth’s eastern fringe, however, where national property development and investment company, the Amdec Group, is taking vital measures to ensure they place less pressure on the environment and natural resources in their development of the previously derelict 128ha tract of land.
“From the outset we wanted to alleviate any unnecessary environmental disruption resulting from the construction and creation of the Westbrook estate and its operations,” comments Amdec Development Director, Cobus Bedeker.
“We’ve long since taken the view that responsible development means integrating environmental best practices into all our projects,” he states. “Amdec is committed to creating new urban spaces where economic growth and social development are in balance with the carrying capacity of the natural environment.”
The expansive Westbrook property is ultimately set to form a sparkling new 21st century suburb, combining a total of 9 residential developments, a retail village and mixed-use node that will house a leading medical facility, plus premium office and commercial space. The suburb’s sizable open spaces will ideally lend themselves to parks, picturesque walkways, bicycle paths and children’s play areas.
A vital part of the successful creation of the new estate, however, has been to protect and preserve the many indigenous plants on the property. With the assistance of an environmentalist, says Westbrook Contract Manager Clifford Oosthuizen, in excess of 60 000 indigenous plants have already been successfully relocated from the undeveloped land to the newly constructed areas. They’ve been replanted along roads to the estate, on verges, and within the various built and landscaped areas, where 80% of the bulk infrastructure and services (roads, sewers, water, electricity etc.) have been established, and 9 show houses forming part of the first residential phase, ‘The Ridge’, have already also been completed.
The Westbrook development team has established a common green nursery on the property, where staff are trained to care for and cultivate the plants for landscaping purposes. In addition to this, the team takes specific measures to counter soil erosion, remove pollutants and litter from the site and to destroy alien vegetation (such as black wattle and rooikrans) known to threaten local flora and fauna, and to choke the vital watercourses running through the property.
“We’re in a continuous process of ‘search and rescue’ when it comes to the indigenous plants on the land,” explains Oosthuizen, “these include protected and endangered species such as the Aloe buhrii, Iridaceae and Phylica pubensens amongst others – with the team boasting a remarkable 85% recovery rate on all translocated plants!”
“However, it is not viable or effective to transplant all plant species,” he says, “success in translocation depends on the plant species, the substrate into which plants are transplanted and on carrying out the activities in appropriate climatic conditions. Then of course, we need to ensure optimum soil quality to enhance success rates and recolonisation.”
Conserving both indigenous and threatened plants will form part of Westbrook’s wider sustainability management and resource practices. As the owners in what can undoubtedly be considered South Africa’s first ‘sustainable green precinct’, Melrose Arch – developed ahead of its time and before the formal green building wave began in South Africa, -developers Amdec know first-hand the benefits an environmentally sound foundation creates for any new development.
With soaring energy costs, clients across Amdec’s portfolio of assets, including its Evergreen Lifestyle Villages, enjoy the benefits of Amdec’s energy-efficient, water-efficient and cost-efficient focus.