Midrand residents fight shifty developers

Johannesburg – Concerned Midrand residents are spending thousands of rand on litigation fighting developers who are allegedly flouting regulations when erecting high-density developments.

This comes as the City of Joburg finalised a new land use scheme, which replaces 16 historic town planning regulatory schemes.

With the new land scheme, the city council aims to expedite the re-organisation of spatial planning by allowing the development of low-cost housing next to workplaces and other economic opportunities.

However, residents have raised concerns that the council is failing to plan for new infrastructure to accommodate high-density development, particularly in the Midrand area.

Marianne Nel, a representative of a group of residents in Midrand, said the building regulations were deliberately ignored by developers because of a lack of consequences.

Nel said the group was embroiled in a protracted court battle with a prominent developer who proceeded to build, despite a court interdict halting it because the building contained too many units.

“There was an interdict against this developer for building illegally, what happened there? A slap on the wrist and the matter was settled out of court without even considering the severity of what they are still getting,” she said.

Several submissions were made to the mayor’s office about the matter.

Nel said the group was not opposed to low-cost housing projects but maintained that all laws must be followed.

The residents have also taken issue with developers for building higher structures that are not aligned with approved plans.

The land use scheme states that the city “in considering applications for land use the council shall, in addition to any other relevant factors, have regard to (a) the location and topography of the erf or site, whether, for example, the additional open space resulting from a building containing more than four storeys is more desirable than that which would result from a four-storey building.”

Nel said the group had been to numerous tribunals with other developers for the same transgressions.

Residents, she claimed, were often intimidated by lawyers representing developers.

“If council keeps on turning a blind eye to developers who break every single rule. How can you expect residents to trust anyone working in council?

“Council should work for the people, not developers,” Nel said.

Recently residents challenged a new complex development, Vorna Valley Extension 106 because it did not comply with the rules.

Paul Vetteman, a member of the residents’ group, said they requested that the development “go no higher than three storeys because that is the norm in Vorna Valley.

“Four storeys will overshadow neighbouring complexes and break the natural skyline, as well as obstruct neighbouring complexes and it is not aligned with the aesthetics of our area.”

He said most complexes were two storeys high.

“Why do residents have to pay to appeal where council should have seen the irregularities before approving this development?

“Now residents have to put up with this and council just turns a blind eye yet again,” he said.

Annette Deppe, councillor for Ward 132 and a whip for development planning, had intimate knowledge of the claims.

She said it was untrue that developers only received a “slap on the wrist”.

A developer caught building 100 units instead of 50 was fined and ordered to reduce the number of units.

The company involved, she said, lost its occupancy certificate as “they have not completed the work recommended by the city”.

Deppe said the city council was operating on a limited budget and focused on “investing in poorer areas with the resources available”.

Midrand, she said, was experiencing high traffic volumes because there were roads that were supposed to be upgraded by the province “like the K56, K73, K60 and R55”, but it never happened.

Dennette said the council had to increase densities in certain areas to transform Joburg into an inclusive city with a secure and safe transport network.

Poppy Louw, spokesperson for the MMC for development planning Ruben Masango, said before any application for building could be approved all departments had to make careful considerations.

Louw said allegations of developers breaking the law in Midrand would be investigated.

Saturday Star

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