Big plans for PMB campus

2009-06-03 00:00

SENIOR University of KwaZulu-Natal medical students undergoing clinical training in Pietermaritzburg hospitals will have a new place to live and study at the end of this year when the first phase of a new residential development at Denison Residence is expected to be completed.

Designed by architects Llew Bryan to house 220 fourth- and fifth-year medical students, the new residence complex comprising 10 interconnected three-storey units, will also have a “high-tech” resource centre in which seminars and lectures will be conducted.

Plans were approved on Thursday and phase one is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The university says it envisages that the new residence will become a “hub of medical educational deve­lopment” and will house students from Durban’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, who spend a few months in Pietermaritzburg during clinical blocks at Grey’s Hospital.

Deputy vice-chancellor and head of the College of Health Sciences Professor Leana Uys described the new building as “a sign of growth and prosperity” that “indicates an investment in the future of a growing institution”.

Preparation of the site has already started. Funded through a clinical skills grant from the department of Education, phase one — comprising three residential blocks and the resource centre — will cost R33 million.

A sod-turning ceremony for the development is set to be held on June 8.

AN “investment in the future of a growing institution” it may be, but a group of six Scottsville residents whose Oribi Road properties back on to the university land, is demanding an immediate halt to work. Pending final approval of the plans on May 28, earthworks started on April 19.

The home owners believe their proximity to the residence buildings will adversely affect the value of their homes because of increased noise le­vels and reduced privacy.

Although the land is zoned for educational purposes, the residents believe, in terms of the Pietermaritzburg Town Planning Scheme, that the municipality requires the “special consent” of neighbouring residents to build a residence.

Property owner Gary Carson, who is also an estate agent, estimates that the value of his property as a result of the development will fall by R200 000.

Carson and his five neighbours received a letter on April 16 from the university informing them of the planned development. The following Sunday, earth-moving machinery started work on the site at 6.30 am.

Residents have lodged an appeal to the municipality, but Carson says their concerns have been dismissed as baseless.

“We are not being heard,” he said.

“Our objection is less about the hostels per se, but to their position right up against the nine-metre boundary,” Carson told The Witness.

The residents are grounding part of their appeal on a Constitutional Court ruling last year (Walele versus City of Cape Town and Others) that, with re­ference to the National Building Re­gulations and Standards Act, found in favour of a Cape Town resident who objected to the municpality’s appro­val of plans for a four-storey block of flats, on the basis that it would adversely affect the value of his own property, as the case may be in this particular instance.

ALVIN Stevens, acting director of the campus’ Facilities Management unit, which is project-managing the construction, says the university is not unsympathetic to the residents’ plight. He said the building team is committed to keeping noisy machines off the site on weekends, reducing dust levels and ensuring the space between the residences and neighbou­ring homes is landscaped.

Stevens said letters, including building and site plans, were sent to residents on April 16 “as a courtesy”.

The project is phase six of the ongoing development of the large piece of university-owned land running alongside Golf Road, which started with the building of Denison’s Men’s and Women’s Towers as phase one.

The final positioning of the buil­dings on the site was left to the architects. “But we are not in violation of the requirements,” said Stevens, referring to the nine-metre building line. According to architect Llew Bryan, walls of the residences are 13 metres from the boundary line at their closest point.

Stevens said the buildings will have attractive, upmarket finishes, in keeping with the university’s move towards low-maintenance buildings.

On the residents’ contention that part of one of the buildings’ courtyards encroaches on the nine-metre line, the architect said the wall is regarded as a yard wall, not a building.

The municipality is confident the plans meet all legal requirements and approved them on Thursday, May 28.

In a statement, the local authority denied the need for special consent in terms of the town planning scheme, arguing that residences or hostels form an integral part of “place of instruction”.

The municipality is confident the plans meet all legal requirements and approved them on Thursday (May 28).

In a statement, the local authority denied the need for special consent in terms of the town planning scheme, arguing that residences or hostels form an integral part of “place of instruction”.

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