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Pretoria - The Pretoria student housing crisis is escalating after allegations that one of the latest private student residential developments in Pretoria Gardens has been built illegally.
Ekhaya Junction, a private off-campus student housing development, opened its doors earlier this year. It was heralded as a solution for students attending the Tshwane University of Technology’s Pretoria West Campus.
The Pretoria News reported last month on the student housing crisis in the city with more than 60 000 students in need of quality housing and study amenities.
Pretoria Gardens residents have grown more vocal in their opposition to the development. The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed that a complaint over the legality of the development was laid last year and a criminal investigation was opened.
The department said the developer, Junction-S, was under criminal investigation for failing to produce a record of design (ROD).
This is a transgression under the National Environmental Management Act, which requires developers to conduct thorough environmental analyses.
The total development area of Ekhaya Junction is 31 000m2.
Residents in the area claim the development is being built in a nature conservation area.
But Paul Lapham, chief executive of Citiq Group, under which Junction-S operates, said the development “fully complies with all building regulations and requirements”.
“Our student apartments (Ekhaya Junction) have been built with existing rights and approvals in place to do the development, as well as a site development plan having already been submitted and approved by the City of Tshwane.”
Lapham sees the development as an asset to the suburb of Pretoria Gardens.
The R300 million development is 300m from TUT and will house 2 300 students, mainly from TUT, when it is finally completed in December 2014.
Currently, 522 students live at Ekhaya Junction and by May there will be another 324 new beds.
“We believe this residence fills a crucial role in providing good quality accommodation to students who might otherwise be forced to rent back rooms or stay in student communes in the area,” said Lapham.
Residents of Pretoria Gardens, however, do not agree, and the Pretoria News has received more than a dozen complaints. They claim that noise levels, traffic and littering have increased since the development opened its doors.
Michelle Stokes said she felt the development intruded on her privacy. “The windows of the first and second blocks have a direct view on to my property. My lounge curtains have to stay closed as the security booth faces my lounge directly,” she wrote.
Neels Kriel said the noise of students talking, cars hooting and music playing was too much to bear.
According to the bus schedule, the first bus leaves Ekhaya Junction for TUT at 6.30am and the last bus trip from TUT is just before 6pm. The students can request evening bus services if they are required.
Resident Louis du Preez said traffic and movement in the cul de sac had increased to unbearable levels with buses, taxis and cars crowding the street.
Streets in the area around the development had become congested, he said.
“There is no more silence, the area is littered and the peacefulness we knew before the development was built is gone.”
Carina le Roux, who lives right next to the development, along with all the other objectors, said residents were not informed about the development. She said a wall was not put up between her house and the development.
“The students drive around and when they come in late at night or in the early hours of the morning, they simply hoot until the security attends to them,” she said.
Stokes wrote: “We had to learn almost at the end of the development that it would be student accommodation. If we’d known, we would have petitioned or sold our properties.”
Residents also said there was no pavement, so the students walked in the middle of the road.
“There are only 522 students now. What will happen when all 2 300 have moved in?” Du Preez asked.
TUT did not respond to questions.
The City of Tshwane confirmed that the development was illegal and under investigation.