Student flats ‘letdown’

2014-04-23 00:00

THE Sydenham neighbours of a block of flats occupied by students say they have been let down by property owner Ahmed Akoo.

The block of flats occupied by Durban University of Technology (DUT) students on Hugo and St Theresa roads was originally intended to be a residential apartment block but the developer deviated from the original plans.

Despite residents’ objections, the deviations were approved and now residents say they are faced with loud noise and the high-rise block means their privacy has been compromised.

Area councillor Jethro Lefevre said the zoning application for the flats was rejected by the community.

“Despite rejection, the construction went ahead. I have taken the matter up with the land use management at the request of the community.

“When residents saw the buildings going up more than the two storeys they had seen in the plans, they had petitioned the developer but he ignored the call,” said Lefevre.

“But the community needs to realise that buildings can be pulled down if municipal by-laws are ignored in the building process,” he said.

Building owner Ahmed Akoo approached the residents in 2005 proposing to build two-storey residential apartments.

When contacted yesterday, Akoo declined to comment.

Easlyn Young, chairperson of the Sydenham policing forum (Park Estate Centre), said that while they sought a solution, there was a need for a social contract between the students and residents.

“We need a conflict-sensitive approach to the matter. We are not against the students but the way the developer has taken residents for granted.

“We need to respect the value system and embrace diversity and co-existence. The social impact is grave,” said Young.

Bordering the units is an orphanage with 76 boys and the St Theresa Primary School.

Debby Bowes, manager of the orphanage, said, “The risk factors faced by the orphans is enormous. The flats are an uncontrolled environment and to expose the boys to this kind of environment won’t do them any good,” said Bowes.

Residents claim that since the students moved in in February, there are high levels of noise and no privacy.

Those residents whose homes are right next door say they can barely sleep.

Resident Ruth Jacks had since drained her swimming pool because occupants of the units near her house have an unobstructed view of her back yard.

“This is not the life we are used to. If I’m in the swimming pool, people on the third and fourth floors of the units can see everything in my back yard, even in my bathroom.

“At night, doors and windows from the apartments are slammed. I don’t know how the developer got his plan approved,” said Jacks.

She said her 94-year-old father was battling to cope with all the noise.

Alan Khan, DUT’s senior director of corporate affairs, said the apartments were leased for three years to accommodate 397 students.

“The university has been made aware of the concerns of the residents. We attended two community meetings and there are ongoing discussions with both the landlord and the residents,” said Khan.

Abdul Domingo, eThekwini’s senior law enforcement manager, said the plan for the building was submitted and approved.

He said residents still have an opportunity to appeal.

Save our Berea co-founder Cheryl Johnson said it was common in eThekwini to have developers deviating from original plans.

“We see this over and over again. Inspectors turn a blind eye to developers who break the by-laws. Council needs to sort this out before it is too late,” said Johnson.

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