'Athlone towers' site: After lofty plans, site lies unused
This is thanks to years of legal wrangling between the City of Cape Town and a global engineering company.
Years of court applications and counter applications to reverse the city’s decision to award Aurecon SA (Pty) Ltd the tender to provide professional services in the decommissioning of the station followed, even though the company was involved in the pre-feasibility study of the project.
The company was officially appointed in May, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy Xanthea Limberg confirmed on Friday.
CREDIT: PHILLIP GIBB, YOUTUBE
This follows a Constitutional Court decision which dismissed the city council’s application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal decision in favour of the company last year.
“The court found that the appointment was valid. The city has abided by the court decision and Aurecon was appointed in May of this year,” Limberg said.
Before the legal wrangling, the city council made several announcements of its plans to have the approximately 36ha of land between Pinelands and Langa along the N2 redeveloped into residential property, business space as well as an arts corridor for tourists and locals.
Currently the power station’s main boiler building is cordoned off and stands idle with some of the office buildings being used by the city’s electricity department.
No sign of development could be seen on the premises this week.
Responding to Weekend Argus questions, Limberg said development on the site could only start once the decommissioning had been completed.
“The decommissioning will take approximately five years,” she said. The city council was engaged with the planning and associated investigations to test the viability for mixed-use development on the site as set out in the pre-feasibility study that was concluded in 2010, Limberg said.
“This work involves a regular review of the technical, commercial, environmental and social sustainability of the development concept. In parallel, the city is also undertaking the decommissioning of the site,” she said.
The coal power station was built in the 1960s and produced electricity until the boilers were switched off in 2003 because it was not economically viable to keep it running, the city said at the time.
Aurecon Engineering International together with ODA (Pty) Ltd were appointed by the city council in a joint venture to conduct a pre-feasibility study for the decommissioning of the power station in 2008.
According to court papers, the brief given to the joint venture included a study of the site for redevelopment, a compilation of a scope of work and specifications for the decommissioning of the power station and was completed in 2010.
But problems started when the city council’s head of electricity generation, John Davidson, told the joint venture’s project manager, Jonathan Webb, during a discussion of the scope of work that “as long as Aurecon did not provide any input concerning the structure of preference and was not represented on the city’s bid valuation or bid adjudication committees, there would not be a conflict of interest which would prevent it from tendering for the decommissioning of the power station”, the court said.
Aurecon SA then made its tender submission in June 2011, proposing to provide services for R11 million. The city council awarded the company the contract for R9m.
After the award, the contract was discussed at a council meeting where some councillors raised concerns about Aurecon being unfairly advantaged and alleging irregularities.
The city council appointed auditors Ernst & Young to investigate and the result was that there were irregularities in the awarding of the contract.
Using this report to strengthen its case, the city council brought an application in the Western Cape High Court for a judicial review of its own decision to award a tender for the decommissioning of Athlone Power Station to Aurecon.
Asked for comment, the company said: “Aurecon’s appointment for the decommissioning of the Athlone power station was confirmed with the acceptance of Aurecon’s offer being signed by the City of Cape Town.”
Meanwhile the city council has issued a public comment notice on a draft environmental scoping report on the project.
The report was compiled by another global engineering company, WSP, and the public have between June 11 and July 11 to register objections.