Local resident Martin Birtwhistle and the chairman of the Yellowwood Ratepayers’ Association Gavin Hegter at the site earmarked for a 136-unit sectional title development.PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA
Durban- The fate of a R74 million sectional title development in Yellowwood Park is in doubt after residents and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife called for the rezoning of the earmarked property to be reversed.

Residents said the local infrastructure would not be able to support the development and it would have a major ecological impact on the nearby Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve.

What was once the sports field of the Impact Christian Academy was now the planned site for the new development.

The land was rezoned from educational to residential after the principal of the academy, Gerald Holland, made the application, which was approved by the eThekwini Municipality in 2014.

Holland subsequently sold the land to Durban’s Motprop Development Group for R6 million and it was set to build a three-storey development comprising 136 sectional title units.

More than 170 residents objected to the rezoning when Holland made the application but they were unsuccessful.

Resident Martin Birtwhistle said the municipality operated as though it did not have a densification strategy because all the amenities in the area were already under pressure.

“At least 600 more people would move into the area but that concern was ignored when it was raised by residents,” he said.

Birtwhistle said local roads were too narrow and had no pavements, schools were overcrowded and there were not enough shopping centres.

The proposed building site was on land donated by Kenneth Stainbank to the state in 1970. The nature reserve was named after him. He donated the land on condition it be used only for educational purposes.

Initially, Quail Primary School was on the site but it later closed. The KwaZulu-Natal government then transferred the land to Holland’s Yellowwood Christian Fellowship in 1993 for the building of the Impact Christian Academy.

“In 1998 Holland had the restrictive clause (that the property be used for educational purposes only) removed from the title deed. The Stainbank family did not object to the move believing Holland’s intention was to extend the school,” claimed Birtwhistle, who is also the representative of the Stainbank family.

Birtwhistle, Ezemvelo and the Yellowwood Park Ratepayers Association have since approached the KZN Planning and Development Appeal Tribunal to have the rezoning decision set aside

Ezemvelo’s concerns are around ecological issues as the development could cause significant pollution and degradation, which could endanger the ecological integrity and functioning of the nature reserve.

“Ezemvelo cannot support a significant increase in the proposed density of development directly adjacent to Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve due to the highly probable negative impacts that include a loss of good quality water to the protected area, increased visual and lighting intrusion, and increased disturbances by domestic animals, alien plant and animal invasions, among other impacts,” reads Ezemvelo’s submission.

There were also concerns that the development could increase the number of domestic animals, especially cats, hunting species in the reserve.

Birtwhistle said the size of the property did not trigger an environmental impact assessment (EIA) since it was less than 5ha, but that Ezemvelo’s concerns should trigger it.

“The council needs to conduct a fuller investigation into this matter and firstly, the proposal should trigger a compulsory EIA and secondly an inspection in loco,” he said.

Chairman of the ratepayers association Gavin Hegter said some of the residents were also concerned that a sectional title development would devalue existing properties and they were prepared to take the matter to court if required.

“When the municipality granted the rezoning it said it was due to demand for accommodation for smaller families in the area and we believe this to be false because Woodhaven (which is adjacent to Yellowwood Park) has plenty of such accommodation,” said Hegter.

Holland disputed the residents’ claims but said he could not comment further as the matter was under review.

Ethekwini spokewoman Tozi Mthethwa said objectors’ concerns were taken seriously and had been weighed against the application submitted.

The Motprop Development Group had not commented at the time of going to print.

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Sunday Tribune