Advocates want inquiry into 'illegal, dubious developments' in Durban

2017-09-02 07:17
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Durban – Advocates for Transformation (AFT) in KwaZulu-Natal have entered the fray on the issue of "illegal building developments" in Durban, calling on the eThekwini Municipality to take urgent steps to establish a commission of inquiry into "the proliferation of dubious developments" in the city and its suburbs.

In a resolution passed this week, the advocates also called on lawyers to provide their services pro bono to "eradicating the scourge which will eventually destroy the beauty of our city".

While not mentioned in the resolution, it is believed one of the developments of concern is the building in Currie Road – labelled a "monstrosity" by neighbours – and which has been the subject of protracted litigation.

In the Durban High Court, a concession was made by the city that some neighbours had not been properly notified of the intended rezoning of the site which permitted developers Serengeti Rise to build the R61m, nine-storey "boundary to boundary" building, the first such re-zoning of its kind on Durban’s Berea.

Judge Esther Steyn ordered the partial demolition of the building – to four storeys with the usual side-space requirements – as per the original zoning of the site.

The developers successfully appealed this ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal which also ordered that the neighbours pay the costs.

'It's an epidemic'

The matter is presently before the Constitutional Court, which is expected to decide soon on whether or not it will grant neighbours leave to appeal the SCA decision.

In recent newspaper reports, activist group Save our Berea alleges that city officials are turning a blind eye to developments being built without approval.

Neighbours of two other developments "going up before our eyes" complained that they had not been properly informed of the plans.

In one instance, they allege no plans have been approved by the city and in spite of a stop-work order being issued, building work was actually speeding up.

Save our Berea’s Cheryl Johnson told News24 on Friday that the organisation had been notified of four other developments "which mirror Currie Road".

"It seems everyone just carries on regardless...unafraid...it’s an epidemic," she said.

The AFT resolution, proposed by Advocate Rajesh Choudree, SC, and seconded by Advocate Griffiths Madonsela, SC, notes the proliferation of "dubious developments" and the overpowering nature of them.

'Unauthorised and dubious developments'

"There has been an abdication of generally accepted town planning principles...and there is a lack of financial and legal support to assist activist organisations challenging this," they said.

Proposing that the city establish a commission of inquiry, the advocates also called on its integrity unit to take urgent steps to stop these developments from proceeding.

"We also call on civil society to vociferously express our opposition, for lawyers to provide their services pro-bono and the municipality to warn developers that they face criminal action if they proceed with these unauthorised and dubious developments."

Asked for comment, Choudree said many members of civil society were concerned with the "brazenness" of developers.

"We are concerned that processes are not being properly followed. The resolution was unanimous. We want the authorities to behave in a more transparent fashion and follow the rules and regulations to the letter."

He said Advocate Tayob Aboobaker – a neighbour of the Currie Road development, who had led the legal charge – was a member of AFT but he had recused himself from the discussion "and did not participate at all".

He said the resolution would now be forwarded to the city.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime  |  property

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