Digs group officially set up to work for better control

2014-04-08 00:00

THE battle against the mushrooming of illegal boarding houses in the Scottsville area took a step forward this weekend with the establishment of the Boarding Establishment Action Group (BEAG.)

The Witness had reported that an informal network of over 70 residents in the Scottsville area, known as the Digs Action Group, were to constitute themselves into a formal body. The aim was to challenge the Msunduzi Municipality, legally if necessary, for not enforcing its own by-laws and regulations with regards to boarding houses.

The organisation was formed at a meeting on Saturday where it was decided that BEAG’s membership and activities will be limited to the suburbs of Scottsville, Pelham, Epworth and Wensleydale.

Meeting convenor Marcus Burnett told the gathering that their main aim was to bring some regulation to the subject of student housing, as it pertains to boarding houses in the area and was provided for in the town planning scheme and the Planning and Development Act.

“We want the burden for the provision of, or planning for, adequate and secure student accommodation to be placed where it belongs — with the local authority and the educational institutions concerned,” Burnett said.

He added that they wanted to engage with these bodies to reduce the demand for irregular boarding houses by eventually replacing them with purpose-built housing for students.

“This is in line with the strategy announced by the deputy municipal manager for economic development, Dr Ray Ngcobo, to close down the space for irregular operators,” said Burnett.

An issue discussed at length at the meeting was a call for the development of a new policy around the approval of special consent applications for boarding houses.

The policy must address such issues as the concentration of their numbers, the conditions for such approval and the provisions of mechanisms for dispute resolution.

The meeting also resolved that they would prefer to work in partnership with the municipality and the educational institutions to find a solution where everyone can live in harmony and the interests of both the students and homeowners can be served.

However, if the mushrooming of illegal boarding houses continues in an unregulated manner, they will seek legal action if necessary against either the local authority or individual boarding house operators.

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