Will building never end?

2014-04-15 00:00

NOT only has construction on two multi-storey developments in Musgrave, just metres away from each other, continued for years without end in sight, but now it emerges that both projects failed to use builders registered with the National Homebuilders Regulatory Council (NHBRC) — which is illegal.

The prolonged construction has left a bitter taste with neighbours, who feel their right to live in a safe and clean environment has been undermined by the developers and the city, which has allowed building to continue.

The 109 and 123 Currie Road multi-storey buildings have been under construction for six and two-and-a-half years respectively, and there is little hope of either being completed soon. There was no activity at either site when visited by The Witness yesterday.

The civic group Save Our Berea said the problems being faced on Currie Road are symptomatic of the wider problems being faced by Berea residents, who feel their concerns are being ignored by the council while building bylaws are flagrantly disregarded by developers with little consequence.

Neighbours have told The Witness that the constant building at the two properties has damaged their properties, encroached on their land, left them susceptible to crime, diminished their property values and resulted in ugly altercations with both builders and developers.

Pirrup Investments is the developer of 109 Currie Road. Pirrup director Dr Denesh Maharaj denied there had been problems with his project’s neighbours and promised The Witness his 11-unit complex and two double-storey penthouses would be completed in the next 10 to 12 months.

“All the neighbours have my number. We are unable to get funding from financial institutions to build these apartments. But this all takes time; there have been lots of obstacles and we have had to change the plans twice,” he said.

The project manager, who would only identify himself as Shaun and threatened to interdict The Witness from publishing this story, confirmed that their builder was not registered with the NHBRC.

The developer of 123 Currie Road is Lyngarth Investments. Lyngarth’s sole director is Dr Anil Maharaj, who was less forthcoming with a deadline. Asked about the frustrations of his neighbours, he said, “They don’t own me, they don’t dictate to me. This is a cash deal. I am building as quickly as possible. Who are you to be questioning me? I am a doctor.” He then hung up.

According to NHBRC spokesperson Wanda Lubelwana, it is illegal for developers to use builders not registered with the council, but it is not necessary for the developer to be registered.

“We investigated 109 Currie Road, but our searches reached a dead-end. They are not enrolled, meaning quality inspections were not done and the property does not then receive the NHBRC warranty cover. We have instructed our legal department to investigate whether the builder they have used is registered,” said Lubelwana.

At 123 Currie Road, neither the developer nor builder Nela Kahle are registered with the NHBRC. The council has opened a criminal case against Nela Kahle.

The NHBRC has affidavits from the developer, who has since appointed a new builder, stating that he would not continue construction until he had enrolled the property. A previous NHBRC inspection on the property resulted in a non-compliance order being issued, said Lubelwana.

Save Our Berea chairperson Cheryl Johnson said they are concerned at the number of developers circumventing building regulations.

“Most of the problems we have encountered concern building proceeding without approved plans, deviations from approved plans, unregistered and unqualified technicians submitting plans, a failure to follow due process with regard to advertising for special consents, rezoning and relaxation of building lines, using false registration numbers and city officials ignoring neighbours’ objections,” said Johnson.

“In some instances city officials told neighbours, when they tried to lodge an objection, that they had no rights or there was nothing they could do. Or else they were simply given the runaround.”

Aaron Naidoo, chairperson of the Burnage complex body corporate, which neighbours 123 Currie Road, said they have fought the council over the development, first questioning its size and now its prolonged construction.

“They have damaged our property walls and joint driveway, and there has been no attempt to suppress the dust. We see the value in the development, but at the moment people are battling to sell in the complex. Who wants to buy a house next to a building site? It is a mess,” he said.

Residents of the Galloway complex, directly behind 109 Currie Road, said the development had encroached on their land, closing a walk-in entrance to their complex.

“They have built over our servitude, which was a walkway entrance to our complex. It is no more. We are in consultation with our lawyers and are preparing to institute legal proceedings,” said a complex body corporate spokesperson.

The eThekwini council told The Witness they are investigating whether the buildings are approved and whether all regulations have been followed.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

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