‘Lives put in danger’

THE Pietermaritzburg Pistol Club is challenging Msunduzi Municipality’s decision to approve a housing project next to the shooting range at the “Quarry Farm”, saying it will put lives in danger.

The club said the municipality should not have approved 694 “low income houses” being constructed next to the shooting range because they will be in a “danger zone, putting the lives of inhabitants in danger”.

But the municipality said that if the club stuck to its lease agreement then there would be no danger in the first place.

The matter was argued on Friday in the high court in Pietermaritzburg and judgment was reserved.

The MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs dismissed the club’s appeal against the environmental authorisation for the housing project and the club has asked the court to reverse the decision.

Advocate Chris Snyman, SC, said the facts in the matter that are not in dispute is that the club is operating a rifle range on a farm in Copesville, that the department approved a housing project for low income housing adjacent to the shooting range, and that a buffer should be erected preventing stray bullets injuring future inhabitants of the housing project.

He said that a risk management systems expert recommended that a buffer zone be constructed on the left of the rifle range right up to Bishopstowe Road, but the department “for some or other inexplicable reason” found that the buffer zone must be at a 200-metre radius.

He said the department did not apply its mind properly to the matter and the decision to approve the project was irrational and unreasonable.

Advocate David Crampton, for the department, said the club did not own the property and has not established that it has any right to continue to use it for its activities.

“Obviously, the unrestrained use of firearms can’t be permitted in a residential environment.”

However, he said that the department correctly identified this as a matter that falls within the municipality’s town planning authority and took steps to ensure that it was properly brought to the municipality’s attention.

For the municipality, advocate Alistair Dickson, SC, said the club has a lease that allows it to act within a space on the neighbouring property in specific ways.

“It [the club] has no lawful claim to entitle it to act as a nuisance to the municipality’s property,” he said.

Dickson said the club has no zoning to act as a shooting range.

He added that the property is zoned as a quarry. The permit authorises an “outdoor no danger zone shooting range”.

He said the range must be constructed so that no shot, even misdirected, will leave it.

THE land, located in a rural area on a farm, is being used as a shooting range and law enforcement tactical training centre that has been approved and accredited.

This was said in court papers by Mischal Bhika, the club’s general manager. He said it meets all the police safety requirements. The types of firearms used on the premises include 9 mm pistols, shotguns, .223/308 rifles, .22 long rifles, R4 and R5 rifles, and smoke grenades and teargas, for training purposes.

Bhika said the club was established in 1960 and entered into a written lease agreement with Natal Crushers in December 1968 in terms of which it rents part of the Quarry farm for an indefinite period.

The lease commenced in 1969. In terms of the agreement, the club is entitled to build on the Quarry Farm for the sole purposes of conducting a pistol club or rifle range, or for allied purposes.