Celebrations as court rules that parts of R60m flats be demolished

2015-07-01 20:46
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – It was the magnificent panoramic view of Durban that attracted many of the residents living on 311 Currie Road to move into a luxury apartment.

From their balcony’s residents enjoyed the view of the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium, Greyville Racecourse and the harbour - until January 2009, when property developer Serengiti Rise Industries bought a house next door and demolished it to build a R60m luxury block of flats.

Now the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban has ruled that five of the nine storeys in the block must be demolished after neighbouring and concerned residents took the rezoning fight to the court.

Many of the residents said they did not receive a notice informing them that they would be getting new neighbours.

An elderly woman who has lived in a neighbouring upmarket apartment for 11 years said: “When I saw them building, I asked my neighbours what was going on and they told me that it was going to be a four-storey building.

“I wasn’t even aware that a building was coming up next door,” said the 82-year-old art collector.

The elderly woman says the residents realised there was something amiss when the building was raised much higher than what was stipulated.

'This should have never happened'

Instead of four storeys, the building today is nine storeys because the municipality authorised the rezoning in December 2011. 

“We got together and took them to court because the city rezoned the property allowing them to build a building that high.

“We also noticed that the boundary walls were actually meeting. This [construction] should have never happened and that is why we took them to court,” she said.

Another resident took News24 to her granddaughter’s bedroom and opened the curtains.

“Look, we have no privacy because they will be able to see into our rooms. The building is also blocking the sun from my granddaughter’s bedroom.

“Sometimes we entertain guests on the balcony, we can’t do that anymore,” said the elderly woman.

She told News24 she was one of about 30 neighbours who received a notice informing her about a four-storey building that was going to be constructed.

After protracted court battle the residents celebrated this week when Durban High Court Judge Esther Steyn ordered that five storeys of the nine storey building be demolished.

According to the judgment, Steyn said the development exceeded GR1 [General Residential One] zoning and must be demolished. She also ordered that eThekwini Municipality and Serengeti Rise Industries pay the complainants' legal fees.

'The judgment is watershed'

Advocate Tayob Aboobaker, who led the charge against the eThekwini Municipality and Serengeti Rise Industries, and who also lives in the building, said: “I live in a substantial penthouse and we moved in here because we had the best views of the harbour, the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Greyville Racecourse, but now we feel like they have invaded our privacy.”

He was thrilled that the residents succeeded.

“I think that the judgment is watershed, I think that it upholds the rule of law and re-establishes the authority of the court.

“The municipality and developers have to be more careful in the future in rezoning property and in passing building plans.

“The professionals employed by the developers should ensure that rezoning applications and plans submitted do not have the effect of disfiguring our city,” said Aboobaker.

Chair of the Combined Ratepayers Association, Lilian Develing, said, “The judgment is a victory for the Berea. The residents have been fighting this for two years, so we are pleased because people out there are getting away with too much.”

A source who sits on the city’s Town Planning Committee told News24 that she didn't recall the plans coming before the committee or being changed from GR1 to GR5.

“We have talked many times in the committee about the height of buildings in residential areas and I told them that high buildings would destroy the scale of the Berea,” said the committee member who cannot be named because she is not authorised to speak to the media.

“With this particular case, there are rules that needed to be followed like your neighbours need to have the right to sunlight and there must be enough side space.

"The developer in this case broke one of the most important rule, which is have enough side space in between the two buildings,” she said, adding that the developer “must return the building to its legality because he doesn’t have permission to do what he has done”.

When asked about the case, the city’s head of communications Tozi Mthethwa said: “eThekwini Municipality has not yet received the copy of the judgment in order to make a decision. The Municipality will have to study the judgment once received to be able to make an informed decision.”

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