New town for Hammarsdale

(Published in THE WITNESS, 29/10/15)

R6 Billion ‘clean’ industrial park will be bigger than Riverhorse Valley and create 6 500 jobs.

Ethekwini has approved the construction of “a whole new town” from scratch, whose building alone will cost R6 billion.

Bigger than Riverhorse Valley in Durban, the Keystone “clean” industrial park in Hammarsdale is to be so large that Sanral had agreed to build a major, R275 million interchange on the N3 to access the strategic node.

Durban will contribute about R93 million of the road costs – but expects R260 million in new rates income from the site annually.

Yesterday, experts said motorists would need “a little patience” to deal with minor traffic delays during the road construction over two years, which will include a doubling of the size of ramps and bridge and “four lanes in both directions” into Hammarsdale.

However, after years of public spats over other major projects like Cornubia and the Dube TradePort, Keystone Park emerged this week as a rare initiative with the enthusiastic support of almost all stakeholders. It follows the launch of the Hammarsdale Junction Shopping Mall, and a major upgrade to the town centre. An eThekwini council report reveals that Keystone would replace the light industrial land that will be lost to the future dig-out port at the old airport.

The Witness understands that early prospective tenants include Mr Price, which is considering a mega distribution facility there. Gill Noyce, a DA member of the economic development committee, said the precinct would jump-start the Durban-Pietermaritzburg development corridor, while also tapping into national economic plans.

“Its not only a very good project, but, for once, we are going about it the right way – choosing the ideal site, and putting infrastructure in place ahead of time,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dave Rigby, a development consultant notoriously critical of the municipality, said, “If I needed to establish a warehouse or logistics company, I’d put it there. It’s going to do well.”

Rod Stainton, project manager for the developer, said an internal analysis suggested that 6 500 jobs would be created within Keystone, with a similar number likely to follow outside the precinct.

He compared the node to Pinetown’s massive Westmead light industrial zone, but said Keystone would embody “green principles”, and would feature “no smoke, no dust; no noise”.

“This is a whole new town, which will act as a catalyst for Hammarsdale and the Mpumalanga community. We are really following eThekwini’s vision for the area.”

An earlier survey prepared for eThekwini’s economic development committee found many farms near the new precinct had been “abandoned”, and that “many of the (small holdings) are vacant or overgrown with alien plants, or are vandalised”.