Plans afoot to reclaim Lookout Rocks ‘badlands’ for Plettenberg Bay and its tourists

Report by: NIKKI RIDLEY

Feedback after a meeting held on April 6 at The Plettenberg hotel to address the problem of crime in the Lookout Rocks area details components of an ‘ambitious and comprehensive’ plan that received much support from all in attendance - NIKKI RIDLEY reports

PLETTENBERG Bay Crime Prevention Association (PBCPA) chairman Bruce Richardson said a meeting was called by members of the Association and Plett Watch after two incidents during which tourists were mugged close to Lookout Rocks in the past few weeks.

“The meeting was very well attended by a broad spectrum ranging from senior and relevant municipal employees, a senior officer from Municipal Law Enforcement, the PBCPA, Plett Watch, SAPS, security companies, the Environmental Forum, Ward 2 politicians, and other interested parties.”

Richardson said attendees were advised that Bitou Municipality had deployed dedicated security patrols in the area during daylight hours after the recent muggings, while The Plettenberg hotel had also instituted security patrols and escorts for guests wishing to use the path to Lookout Deck restaurant at night.

No further incidents had been reported since then. However, he added it had become apparent that a “far more comprehensive solution” was required to achieve elimination of criminal activity here.

He said stakeholders agreed that a long-term solution was needed - one that also involved rehabilitation of the area, and which needed to be followed through “to its conclusion”.

The plan comprises a number of suggestions and calls to action, in the short-term including improvement in private security by stakeholders, and 24-hour patrols to keep out bush sleepers and intercept known criminals hanging around in the area with intent.

Shacks should be destroyed and new ones prevented from being built, while the distribution of warning literature and appropriate signage “until the area becomes secure” also form part of the plan, as well as “signage stating that overnight informal stays in the area are prohibited”.

Suggested long-term solutions include (though they are not restricted to) regular SAPS patrols, support from PBCPA and Plett Watch with clearing and patrolling, and an upgrade of the entire area into a safe ‘Pride of Plett’ eco-park that tourists are encouraged to visit.

Consideration was also given to the fact that the area is beautiful and forms part of a unique coastal vegetation corridor. This eco-park would ideally have “heightened levels of municipal, public, and eco involvement, so it is constantly inhabited by persons carrying out the relevant functions”.

It is furthermore suggested that this eco-park features dedicated paths and walkways; that bush (mainly alien vegetation) be cut back to lift the canopy and “eliminate all unofficial paths on a permanent basis”, and that signage warn visitors to follow designated paths only, as has been done in other public areas such as Robberg Peninsula.

Richardson said a number of working committees had been formed to ensure the continuity of all components.

“It is fervently hoped that the town as a whole will embrace and support the project, much like the Plett Clean campaign, seeing the massive benefit of reclaiming this beautiful part of town and turning it from a liability to a significant eco-asset that we can all enjoy in safety.”

Involvement is required from a number of parties, from the Tourism Board, CapeNature, and the Public Works department to Plett Ratepayers Association, while local businesses are called on to offer sponsorship under the leadership of a dedicated project coordinator.

“Rather than abandon this area as the badlands from which criminal activity will continue to infest the rest of Plett, let us rehabilitate it and kill two birds with one stone.”