Supermarket gets nod

2013-02-04 00:00

RESIDENTS of Mills Circle in Hayfields are getting a shopping centre whether they like it or not.

This after the provincial appeals tribunal on Friday dismissed appeals by residents who had opposed the controversial development of a Superspar by Nick Christodolou.

The development has been dogged by controversy since the plan was mooted.

Residents were less than amused last year when Christodolou started demolishing houses and excavating the site in preparation for the shopping centre, despite the fact that building plans had not yet been approved.

To stop him, the municipality approached the high court for an interdict last April, but the matter was settled out of court when Christodolou agreed to halt all work pending the outcome of the appeals process. He denied, however, that he’d acted illegally in any way.

After Friday’s verdict by the appeals tribunal, Christodolou was a happy man, and so was the local business chamber.

Christodolou and his attorney, Paul Firman, said nobody could stop development.

Firman said the development of the Superspar centre would create about 300 jobs for Pietermaritzburg, as well as temporary jobs for contractors, sub-contractors and their employees. “In addition it will bring a much needed injection of money into our economy. Its just a pity that it has taken so long for it to happen.”

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO, Melanie Veness, said the decision by the tribunal was a positive step for Pietermaritzburg.

“The development is a good development, one that will add immense value to Hayfields generally, offer consumers an exciting new shopping experience, and most importantly, bring around 300 much needed jobs to the table,” she said.

Veness said the chamber sympathised with the residents who had concerns about the development. “Unfortunately, one has to look at the bigger picture. We are a capital city that must grow in order to ensure that we create much needed jobs.”

Development can now begin as soon as a number of conditions laid down by the tribunal have been complied with, and new building plans lodged and approved by Msunduzi Municipality.

At least one of the conditions imposed by the tribunal was not part of the original municipal approval. It stipulates that a two metre wide servitude be created, along which foliage and trees, are to be planted by the developer acting on the advice of a professional horticulturist.

“I must also say that I believe that the developer has made every effort to try and address the affected resident’s concerns,” said Veness.

But Nora Choveaux of the Preservation of Mkondeni Mpushini Biodiversity Trust, one of the objectors, said she was disappointed with the judgment. “It is difficult to comment at this stage because we haven’t been given reasons. The tribunal only has to give reasons within 30 days of the hearing, so we should know them by February 25,” she said.

She said the only new condition imposed by the tribunal appeared to be that relating to the creation of a buffer of trees and foliage between the residential properties and the centre. “I’m not certain that’s going to be effective,” she said.

Other conditions imposed by the tribunal are that the developer will, at his cost, implement improvements on the site, including the creation of lay-bys on Blackburrow Road; a pedestrian crossing opposite the lay-bys; and erect a physical median to stop taxis and other vehicles from making U-turns.

Christodolou must also take measures to restrict heavy duty vehicles from driving around Mills Circle.

He must also build an “aesthetically pleasing and structurally stable” 2,4 metre high wall along common boundaries in consultation with the owners of the affected properties, before any work can commence.

Choveaux said, as far as she knows, all these conditions were included in the original plans.

“We are not saying that another Spar will be a bad thing for Pietermaritzburg. It’s the siting of it that we are opposed to. Mills Circle is not the place for it,” said Choveaux.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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