Housing plan back on track

2014-05-05 00:00

AFTER overcoming earthworms and rare aloes, a R300 million project, which will provide housing to nearly 1 000 families, has finally been given the green light.

The Msunduzi Housing Association’s plan for the housing project in the Westgate/Grange area first stalled because thousands of endangered earthworms had to be carefully relocated from the site. Then it was rare aloes that had to be moved.

Just as the association was getting ready to finally get the project underway, they were stopped in their tracks.

MHA CEO Ivor Caldecott explained that they were told of a clause in their “conditions of establishment” which indicated they would have to wait for upgrades to the Darvill sewerage plant to be completed before they would be given a certificate of compliance enabling them to register a consolidation at the deeds office.

The Darvill upgrade is only expected to be completed in two years.

However, a compromise was reached and the development is back on track. According to Umgeni Water, so too is the upgrade on the sewerage works.

Caldecott said after negotiations between the MHA’s conveyancer and the municipality, the relevant documents for consolidation were lodged at the deeds office last week. To expedite this process, they had to request a relaxation of the conditions of establishment regarding the clause on the Darvill sewerage upgrade. He said the municipality had been helpful in this regard.

“I was told the upgrade would be completed during 2016 and therefore this naturally makes it unreasonable to hold a development until that time, as building costs escalate monthly,” Caldecott said.

“Once the consolidation is registered and the building plan approval process finalised, we hope to make an immediate start on the project as the delays have cost us large sums of money to date,” he added.

For the MHA, a private non-profit company engaged in social housing, it has been a long haul with over R8,5 million spent before the project has even got off the ground.

The MHA Westgate/Grange housing project on the Richmond Road will see the construction of 952 rental housing units. The Msunduzi Municipality had donated the 14-hectare piece of land for the project.

Caldecott said the development will consist of facebrick-based units in three-storey buildings. There will be 287 units catering for households earning up to R3 500 per month and the balance of 665 units will be for families with an income of about R7 500 per month.

Other features of the complex will include a community hall to house a crèche and a full-sized football pitch which will effectively divide the development into two villages.

Funding for the development will come from the KZN Department of Human settlements, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority and a loan from the National Housing Finance Corporation. The project is expected to be completed in 2016 — the same year that the Darvill upgrade will be ready.

More sewage for Darvill

THE Witness spoke to Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, who explained that the Darvill site has been used for sewage disposal since early in the last century.

At that time, “sewage farming’” methods were used. A formal sewage works with a capacity of 27 million litres a day (27 Ml/d or six million gallons as it was then) was constructed in the mid-1950s to meet the then-legislated General Standard of the Department of Water Affairs.

As the city grew, this was increased to 54 million litres per day in the 1970s, then to 65 million litres per day in the 1990s.

Umgeni Water bought the wastewater works from the then-Pietermaritzburg City Council in 1992. However, the title deed is dated 1996, meaning that Umgeni Water has owned the wastewater works since 1996, but has operated it since 1992.

Harichunder said the proposed upgrade will increase the capacity of the works from its current 65 Ml/day to 100 Ml/day. “The work involves constructing completely new inlet structures and aeration units, as well as increased capacity in the other elements of the wastewater treatment process.

“The increased treatment capacity should make the wastewater works easily meet the minimum 95% compliance with the Department of Water Affairs licence.”

According to Harichunder, the upgrade is expected to cost about R627 million. The construction cost will be funded by Umgeni Water and recovered through its tariffs. The increased capacity is expected to accommodate the predicted flows through to 2023.

A future upgrade to 120 Ml/day is planned to follow this one, but the timing of this will depend on the actual uptake of the increased capacity.

Some elements of the plant will be increased to a 120 Ml/day capacity as part of the current upgrade due to the higher cost of expanding these elements in separate stages.

Harichunder said that as part of the upgrade, the sludge lands have been developed to produce instant lawn. “This is an economical method of sludge disposal that produces an environmentally sound by-product, and provides jobs to a number of people.”

DAEA welcomes proposed Darvill upgrade

THE Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development (DAEA) has welcomed the Darvill upgrade.

A statement from the department said that for a number of years, there has been concern about the capacity of the wastewater treatment works to deal with an increased volume of effluent generated by developments within Pietermaritzburg.

“While the department has not refused environmental authorisation for developments specifically on the grounds of insufficient capacity at the water works, it has, in accordance with sustainability principles, placed restrictive conditions on such developments”. These included the Msunduzi Housing Project on the Richmond Road and the Slangspruit Sewer reticulation project.

The department gave environmental authorisation for the project with the provision that there could be no physical connection to the treatment plant until the upgrade had been completed, and that they were satisfied that the works were capable of accepting the additional volume.

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