Developers win ConCourt dispute over Durban high rise, seek legal costs

The Constitutional Court. (Lizeka Tandwa, News24)
The Constitutional Court. (Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

Durban - The developers of a controversial high-rise apartment building on Durban's Berea - which, after a protracted court battle waged with neighbours has now been given the green light by the Constitutional Court - say they are seeking legal advice on the violation of their rights and will recover costs from those who litigated against them.

The attorney acting for Serengeti Rise Industries, Norton Rose Fulbright Director Marelise van der Westhuizen, said in a statement on Wednesday that her client's integrity had been unfairly called into question and had been subjected to an "unwarranted and baseless attack" on its character.

Serengeti and the eThekwini Municipality were initially taken to the Durban High Court by neighbours of the "boundary-to-boundary" development who claimed the rezoning of the site in Currie Road was unlawful and the subsequent building plan approval had allowed for the construction of a "monstrosity", out of keeping with the area and which blocked views, privacy and sunlight.

Also read: Durban residents to tackle sun-blocking high-rise apartment in ConCourt

Durban High Court Judge Esther Steyn ruled in favour of the neighbours and ordered the partial demolition of the building to conform with its original zoning.

However, this was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which found that the building and all approvals given to it were legal. 

The neighbours then approached the Constitutional Court asking for leave to appeal this decision.

But last week, that court refused this, saying there were no prospects of success and ordering the neighbours to pay the company's legal costs.

'No prospects of success'

Van der Westhuizen said: "Despite the unfortunate media hype and sensationalist reporting which has muddied the facts since inception, the orders of Constitutional Court and the SCA again vindicate our long held position that the judgment of the Durban High Court was simply inconsistent with the law and judicial precedent.

"This is particularly telling, given that the Constitutional Court dismissed the applications on the basis that there were no prospects of success for the applicants on appeal to the Constitutional Court, a complete contradiction to the misguided and careless views expressed by the applicants on the matter which, in our view, were based on a selective consideration of the factual circumstances and an incorrect understanding of the law."

She said her clients had always complied fully with their legal obligations. 

"The company is in the process of seeking legal advice on the violation of its rights in addition to pressing ahead with the very significant cost orders awarded by the highest courts in South Africa."

While the building is almost complete, construction stopped while the litigation was ongoing.

Van der Westhuizen said Serengeti Rise now intended to complete its "one of a kind development".

She said it would transform the Durban skyline positively and enhance the beauty of this city. 

"Serengeti Rise would also like to express its sincere gratitude and appreciation to its purchasers, partners and members of the community who stood by it during this difficult period."

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