Community members who attended a public meeting held by the Ermelo Business Association (EBA) on Wednesday evening, 20 June at the EHS Auditorium, had the opportunity to view their opinions regarding the proposed bypass. This bypass is allegedly being planned by Sanral and will bypass Ermelo from the N17 (Bethal) to the N2 (Piet Retief). The meeting was attended by EBA members, business owners, the Executive Mayor of Msukaligwa Municipality cllr. J Bongwe, the Msukaligwa Municipal Manager Mr T Dlamini, representatives of the ANC Youth League, local media, SABC News, the local SAPS and concerned community members.
The topic of the evening was the effect this proposed bypass could potentially have on the economy of Ermelo. It is still unclear at this time exactly what Sanral’s plans are for the bypass. According to information obtained by the EBA, there are three options being considered by Sanral, but that there are definitely plans to bypass the town. The first option is to bypass Ermelo on the southern side which will include the N17 (Bethal), R39 (Morgenzon), N11 (Amersfoort) and N2 (Piet Retief). The second option is to bypass Ermelo on the northern side of the town, which would include the N17 (Bethal), N11 (Hendrina), N17 (Breyten) upto the N2 (Piet Retief). The last option is to end the N17 at the traffic light at Cassim Park, with the traffic then entering Ermelo town and continuing through town to the different routes. Apparently Sanral has put a tender out for a consultant to start with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Another contracted consultant is currently finishing up a study on the actual bypass route around the town.
According to Mr Athol Stark, president of the EBA: “This EIA should include a feasability assessment as well as a social-economic assessment before any bypass can be considered. The public’s participation and complete transparency in the process by Sanral will be crucial or the EBA will do all it can to stop any form of a bypass. The EBA is of the strong conviction that a bypass will ruin the economy and that Ermelo’s future plans to become a city would have to be shelved. The public should have first been informed of Sanral’s plans before they went ahead with any of their planning. We as a Chamber of Commerce are very disturbed at what we see happening in our own town, right under our noses, with Sanral busy planning a bypass.”
The Executive Mayor suggested that: “The EBA might be jumping the gun, seeing that Sanral will only be meeting with the local municipality on Tuesday (today) for the first time to discuss this issue”. This comment received a reaction from the EBA, business owners and the ANC Youth League. Although the Mayor feels that Ermelo must wait to see what happens, Mr Stark was adamant that the business community “would rather jump the gun than be too late to catch the bullet”. He explained that there had been a tendency to bypass the actual organised representatives of business and tourism in the region, therefore it was very important that the EBA as an organisation, brief its membership and business in general before any decisions are made about their future. A decision was taken to form a focus group to address the proposed bypass on behalf of Ermelo. Although invited, the local municipality declined the invitation to be a part of this group. At this stage it is still unclear who is on this focus group as the nominees chosen at the meeting still have to accept the nominations. Representatives of the EBA, community, business owners and the ANC Youth League were nominated by the attendees.
What impact will a bypass have on the economy of Ermelo? Will it effect everybody in Ermelo or only certain businesses? What impact will an Ultra-city outside of town on the bypass have? Email your opinion on this matter to firstname.lastname@example.org. AS