Builders flouting laws

2014-04-05 00:00

THERE are nearly 120 buildings in the Musgrave area of Durban that are being investigated for being in contravention of building plans.

Ward 31 councillor Jetho Lefevre has said this number is the cause of massive frustration on the part of the city’s ratepayers who feel powerless despite trying to report such matters and complaining about bylaws being broken.

Ironically the city’s own risk anaylsis committee has acknowledged more needs to be done to curb the flouting of building regulations in order to safeguard the city’s reputation.

“City councillors throughout the metro are pulling their hair out,” said Lefevre. “We are continually dealing with the public who are living next to such buildings and while we try to help them the responsibility ultimately lies with the city’s administration.”

Lefevre said residents must demand from the city’s town planning section clarification on whether a building has the required permission or not.

He said that at last count 117 buildings had been identified for breaching bylaws in his ward alone.

But one Currie Road resident, Bernie Sookool, has lost all confidence in the city. She said she has had to endure three years of constant construction next door at 109 Currie Road. She said the building has been under construction since 2008.

“I have spoken to every level at the city’s town planning,” said Sookool. “None of them have reassured me that the premises has permission and all of them say it is a civil issue that I must take up. There is even blatant disregard of health and safety but the council have washed their hands of the issue. I am at my wits’ end.

“Recently my wall collapsed because a machine excavated right next to it. At night we hear vagrants stripping the premises of metal. We have been robbed on countless occasions. We are trying to sell our property but no one is willing to buy it because of the partially-built monstrosity next door.”

The property is owned by Pirrup Investments, whose directors are both doctors. When Weekend Witness rang a telephone number of one of the directors, Dr Samanth Maharaj, a man, who on answering acknowledged he was Dr Maharaj, later denied he was Samanth Maharaj. He then refused to give his name.

He also refused to give the number of his partner, Dr Deresh Maharaj, the other Pirrup director who runs a practice in Newlands West, but said he would get him to contact Weekend Witness. He had not contacted the paper by the time of going to press.

The mystery man said: “We have not been building for six years; it is less. There are no issues at the premises, we have just been busy elsewhere.”

He said he was angry that the neighbours had spoken to the press and not come to them directly.

A Google Map search revealed that in 2010, 109 was under construction.

But Sookool is not alone. Residents in St Thomas Avenue and Essenwood Road as well as the suburbs of Morningside and Glenwood have voiced similar concerns and all feel abandoned by the city council.

This despite a recent finding by the eThekwini risk committee, which recognised that both municipal and private infrastructural developments, although beneficial, “have risks attached to them including damage to the reputation of the municipality”.

The findings, tabled before council earlier this year, found the controls in place may not be strong enough, referring specifically to the partially built Tongaat Mall, which had no planning permission and collapsed last year killing two people and injuring 29.

The committee recommended a process to ensure all “high-impact projects, high-impact vendors and project owners … be identified and appropriately profiled” and be compliant with the laws “until the projects are finalised”.

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