Mall demolition must wait for inquirry to end

2014-05-23 00:00

THE eThekwini Metro is determined to have the collapsed Tongaat Mall completely demolished.

But they can only do this once the commission of inquiry — set up by the Department of Labour — has completed its investigation into the November 2013 collapse that injured 29 and killed two people.

The mall was being built by Durban businessman Jay Singh, who has been linked to various questionable multi-million rand city contracts, through a company called Rectangle Property Investments. It was built without planning permission.

“The municipality is in the process of applying for a trial date,” said municipal spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa. “It is the city’s intension to have the mall demolished however, any application for demolition can only be instituted once the Labour Department inquiry has been finalised.”

Singh is expected to give evidence before the commission in June. Technical reports are also expected to be completed. The reports will give insight into the quality of cement used, the strength of support beams and whether there were any flaws in the design of the mall. The commission is also expected to apportion blame.

The city was heavily criticised in the aftermath of the collapse with regard to its alleged poor track-record in approving plans timeously.

The city is now in the process of setting up a “one-stop” development shop in an attempt to fast-track development.

“It will provide an advisory service and support for new and existing developers in the city,” said Mthethwa. “There is an agreement in principle that a service like this is required in the city to ensure that developers get all the advice they require even before they commit to buying a piece of land, commit huge funds on specialist studies and to do an informed application which will enable their plans to move quicker in the system.”

She said “most developers lose millions of rands” when they make “uninformed decisions and are later compelled to comply”.

“This service will deal with this problem right from the beginning which in turn makes plans submission much easier,” she said.

But while there is no specific date for this service to be up and running Mthethwa said the “overall goal” is to ensure that eThekwini “becomes an “investor/ developer-friendly destination”.

She disputed town planning was understaffed and said there is no “crisis with regard to the approval of building plans”.

“The latest statistics show that 97% of all received building plans are dealt within statutory time limits. This is an impressive record in comparison to most metros in the country.”

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