Blackridge residents against housing project

2018-12-10 16:40
Disgruntled community members Judith Lawrence and Martie Coetze stand with ward councillor Ross Strachan outside the large plot of land which could be turned into a massive housing development.

Disgruntled community members Judith Lawrence and Martie Coetze stand with ward councillor Ross Strachan outside the large plot of land which could be turned into a massive housing development. (Ian Carbutt)

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A proposal to put up a series of multi-storey housing blocks in Blackridge will overburden already strained municipal infrastructure and destroy the tranquillity of the area, residents say.

Msunduzi has confirmed that it has received a rezoning application for the property on which the development is being proposed. The next step will be to conduct hearings into objections.

According to a notice of application to rezone the site, situated on a large property at 248 Sweetwaters Road, the plan is to build 26 three-storey blocks with housing units ranging from one  bedroom to three bedrooms. A diagram attached to the notice shows the development, which sits between parts of Braeside Road and Mbubu Road, will have hundreds of parking bays.

Msunduzi has been asked to rezone the piece of land, which appears to be more than three hectares, from “special residential” to “general residential 1 zone” which would allow for such a development.

Details of the developer behind the rezoning application have not been made public, but Lawrence van Heerden, a development planning consultant involved in the project, told The Witness he had been in touch  with the developer via e-mail. He was reluctant to release the name of his client. “I have forwarded your e-mail to the client and have been instructed to inform you that all the information you require is set out in the documents that are available at the municipality. Sorry but my hands are tied.

“We are busy putting together a response to the objections which will take a few weeks. Once this is done I will ask the client if we can include you in the circulation of this latter document,” said Van Heerden in response to inquiries by The Witness.

The Witness asked the municipality for the documents  but was told that since the closing date for comments on November 27 had passed, the documents were no longer available for public viewing. They will only become available again when a formal hearing is held in the New Year.

Members of the Blackridge community have expressed their concerns that if such a development were to go ahead it would have dire consequences as the area would be unable to accommodate such a large influx of people and cars.

Several residents have submitted formal objections to the City ahead of a mass meeting being planned to discuss a plan of action by affected residents.

Community members said they fear such a development will add further strain to the ageing infrastructure in the area, which has of late been showing its age with frequent electricity outages.

The community has also complained that the large development would increase the traffic in the area and beyond to the point where it would be a “nightmare” for surrounding roads which are not suited to cope with the volume.

They have also claimed that only homeowners in the immediate vicinity were informed about the proposed development despite the fact that the ramifications of it could potentially affect areas as far as Clarendon, Prestbury and Boughton. The site itself has an abandoned home on it which is surrounded by dense bush and tall trees. The site is fenced off and behind a locked gate.

“This area is a green belt, and we bought homes here to be away from developments like this,” one resident told The Witness.

“Some of us moved here 30 years ago and we moved here just for that.”

Another said: “Blackridge is a tranquil, quiet neighbourhood of mostly freestanding houses. That is the beauty of living here: it is not close to the CBD.”

She added that the area simply would not be able to deal with hundreds more vehicles in rush-hour periods, and said many roads were already severely damaged. “Take a drive from the Botanical Gardens [on Zwartkop Road] to Winterskloof … at 7.30 am on a school day — good luck,” said the resident.

Local councillor Ross Strachan said the area’s infrastructure capacity was already stressed without an influx of hundreds of new residents.

“I’m not opposed to any private development, especially due to the fact that our city needs development desperately … [but] it would not be sustainable, especially in the Blackridge area which is constantly affected by prolonged service delivery outages in particular electricity.

“If the developers are proposing such a dense population development that will increase the pressure without any upgrades being done prior, it would be detrimental to that community,” he said.

Msunduzi Municipality confirmed it had received objections from members of the community and said a public hearing will be held to air any concerns.

“It must be noted that the application is in its initial stage. A decision has not been made whether the project will be approved or not.

“We have to follow the processes first in terms of the bylaws,” spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said. 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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