Relief for residents as city takes developer to court

2012-04-10 00:00

RESIDENTS opposed to the controversial Mills Circle development have received a boost with the news that the city hopes to interdict developer Nick Christodoulou.

The Msunduzi Municipality’s application for a temporary interdict will be heard tomorrow at the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

New municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi wants the court to halt development of a supermarket on the land until building plans have been submitted and the objections to the development have been heard by the provincial appeals tribunal.

The application has been hailed as a triumph by residents, who have long objected to what they allege is Christodoulou’s bulldozing the development through while ignoring municipal processes.

In particular, they have questioned how Christodoulou was allowed to excavate and demolish houses on the site while awaiting the outcome of the appeals they lodged against the development.

They were also shocked to learn from the court papers filed by the city that there were no approved building plans for the SuperSpar that has long been touted as the planned development for the site.

One of the objectors, Nora Choveaux of the Preservation of the Mkondeni and Mpushini Biodiversity Trust, welcomed the court application.

The Msunduzi Municipality was duty bound to control development and the court application showed it was taking charge.

However, it was regrettable that it had taken the municipality so long to act as the felling of trees and the demolition of houses which had been frequently reported prior to the excavation of the foundations had dramatically affected the sense of place at Mills Circle, she said.

Christodoulou’s development for a proposed Hayfields SuperSpar was approved by Msunduzi administrator Sbu Sithole, who at the time defended his decision despite having received a number of objections.

Sithole said he had applied his mind when making the decision, taking into account the totality of views put before him and the fact that he was obliged by law to make a decision by June 30, 2011.

He said he had taken advice from professionals, including legal opinion, and had no choice but to approve the development.

Yesterday, Nkosi confirmed that the municipality had lodged court papers for a temporary interdict.

It appears from the papers filed in court that the excavation of foundations on the site was the final straw for the municipality.

The court papers also show that the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is listed as one of the respondents in the application as well as the 30 objectors who lodged their appeals against the development.

Nkosi explained that Cogta was named in the papers because it may be called on to explain what was happening to the appeal process.

The objectors were named because their input may be required by the court.

“This is not a case of one government department taking another to court, we are on the same side on this one,” Nkosi said.

He added that it was about processes being followed.

Among the 30 objectors is the owner of the existing Pick nPay Hayfields Mall — SA Retail Properties.

Christodoulou could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his lawyer, Paul Firman, said his client would not oppose the first part of the interdict because there was no development going on at the site.

However, the second part of the application — relating to the appeals process — would be opposed.

Given that Cogta had not begun the appeals process, he would argue it had lapsed, said Firman.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said Msunduzi had kept the department abreast of its application.

The provincial appeals process had not stopped.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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