Municipality lets city down

2013-08-16 00:00

THE plug has been pulled on a R235 million retirement village in Pietermaritzburg because of delays caused by the Msunduzi Municipality in getting developments off the ground.

Executive committee members heard yesterday that this was one of many projects earmarked for Pietermaritzburg where developers were losing interest. Others include the Liberty Midlands Mall expansion and the new SuperSpar in Blackburrow Road in Hayfields.

Exco members were also told that contrary to their expectations, the Southern Sun Group, which took over the Golden Horse Casino, may not build a five-star hotel in the city any time soon. Instead the company would refurbish the current complex into a four-star hotel.

The Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Aged (Padca) had planned to build the multimillion-rand Hlatshana Retirement Village on 15 hectares in Murray Road, Lincoln Meade. Padca CEO Hillary Mumford yesterday confirmed that the project had been abandoned. Mumford said that after five years of trying to get the project off the ground, and being held up by obstructions and delays, they had decided it was too risky to continue. She said it was a very bitter decision for Padca.

“The risks were becoming too great. It had been delayed so much that the costs were escalating,” she said.

According to Mumford, the main reason the project was shelved was because they had no assurance from the municipality about a timeframe by when the project would receive final approval.

“The municipality could not tell us whether it would take another six months or another four years,” she said.

Mumford said that building retirement villages was not Padca’s core function. The organisation had embarked on the project because of the growing need for such facilities in the city.

“This project would not only have created jobs in the construction industry, but it would have provided a range of jobs in the care industry. For many of us it has been a very sad decision; so much creativity and energy went into the endeavour,” she added.

The deputy municipal manager for economic development, Dr Ray Ngcobo, who was appointed earlier this year, admitted there were problems. “At times we are creating the bureaucratic blockages,” he said.

Ngcobo said the department was addressing the problem. His division had started engaging with developers and they had transformed the building plans approval process. According to Ngcobo, a panel would now sit every week to approve plans. This would be an integrated panel with representatives from all departments sitting in one room and processing plans. He added that in the past developers had to take their plans through the different departments, and these could be held up at any one of the various stages.

Mayor Chris Ndlela pointed out that 17 proposed major developments in the city were worth some R7 billion. “This is a huge investment in the city and would have gone a long way to addressing unemployment. We need to do more to get investors to the city instead of pushing them away,” Ndlela said.

DA councillor Bill Lambert thanked Ngcobo for his honesty and efforts in addressing the bureaucratic blocks at the municipality.

“The quicker we allow developments to get off the ground, the sooner will we get money in the bank to increase our rates income. The nub of this is that we have to have huge rates increases every year because we are not growing our rates base. These developments must get off the ground and the sooner the better,” he said.

City has projects worth R7 bln, but developers have lost faith and interest

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