Town planning: Board upholds appeals after four-year battle

2009-03-23 00:00

A group of Prestbury residents, many of them pensioners, have won a four-year battle with the Msunduzi Municipality over town planning violations that saw the municipality allow two industrial-type businesses to be established in a residential area.

The Town Planning Appeals Board has upheld the residents’ objection and found the municipality’s decision to allow the businesses to continue to be a flouting of the province’s town planning ordinances.

For the residents, the issue highlights the flaws and inconsistencies in how the municipality manages town planning in the city.

The residents say their fight has not been easy.

They do not want to give their names because they say their victory should be seen not as an exercise in gloating, but rather as encouragement to residents that a small group of concerned citizens can achieve much in defending their residential rights.

They told of their letters to the municipal manager, mayor and other municipal officials going unanswered.

They also cited instances when they were told to be at the city hall early in the morning for a corporate strategic planning meeting to present their case, only to sit for hours waiting for the councillors to return from site visits.

They told of long waits at the city hall, only to be told that scheduled meetings had been cancelled.

When they did sit through meetings they spoke of being insulted by councillors and being told that by blocking business they were preventing poor people from getting jobs.

The Appeals Board said in its judgment that it has sympathy for an entrepreneur in starting a business that shows signs of growth, especially in these difficult economic times.

However, it said it has a duty to ensure that there is “harmonious development” in a manner that promotes pleasantness in the neighbourhood.

The board noted that the objectors were not against home businesses as such and said the drafters of the town planning scheme envisaged small-scale, non-obtrusive operations in residential areas.

It confirmed that the businesses were industrial rather than home-based.

More worrying for the board was that the businesses were started long before the owners had sought permission, a requirement of the city ordinances, and no effective measures were put in place to stop them. Instead the officials allowed them to carry on.

The board noted with concern that the municipality appeared not to have taken sufficient or effective steps, apart from issuing Section 77 notices, to protect the rights of the objecting neighbours and prevent one entrepreneur from continuing his activities on the site.

“This is a worrying trend that the board has noted in a number of matters coming before it,” the judgment read.

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