Joburg building project mired in controversy

Time of article published Jun 25, 2013

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Johannesburg - A vast new development of 8 000 houses, schools, community and youth centres, parks, a hospital and fire station looks set to be built along the N3, near Linksfield, on the Sizwe Hospital grounds.

News of this has come as a shock to residents, who say they have not been informed of the plan by the Gauteng provincial government.

DA MPL Jack Bloom said he was made aware of it by Marian Laserson, an architect and resident, who monitors developments in the area.

He put questions to the legislature and MEC for Local Government and Housing Ntombi Mekgwe, who confirmed them.

She said proposals had been called for the development of an “inclusionary integrated residential housing development with emphasis on catering for the affordable market, among the other categories of residential, commercial and social amenities to be developed on this portion of land”.

“The brief also requires the bidders to be in a position to finance the development from the planning stage to the infrastructure,” Mekgwe said.

A consortium, Equicent Infrastructure Development, has been selected with “extensive experience in the development of residential estates similar to what is envisaged by the department”, she added.

“The bidder has also demonstrated its understanding of the residential market by firstly providing proposals for accommodation at affordable price packages, and secondly, a product that is appropriate for the volatile market.

“The proposal has also offered value for money, in that it presented the department with a costing and pricing of the affordable housing units to address the beneficiary group targeted in this development.”

The development will be maintained by the developer for a period of 10 years - including the hospital and the police and fire stations - at no cost to the government.

The proposal will see the development of about 8 000 residential opportunities in affordable housing of rental and bonded units.

The land, Mekgwe said, was well located, in proximity to job opportunities and would optimise available infrastructure and access to public transport.

“The proposal demonstrates government’s approach to de-racialise new settlements.”

The 171-hectare property was valued by the department at R80-million.

The main concern of residents is the sensitive environment such as the pristine Bankenveld grasslands, over 6 000 graves attached to the Sizwe infectious disease hospital, and archaeological sites on the banks of the Jukskei River.

Mekgwe said it had been made clear that the developers would have to undertake the planning process at their own cost before any development can take place.

An environmental impact assessment will have to take into account the conservation of wetlands, rivers and other natural water resources.

Laserson said the proposal was hidden in a gazette which she happened to see. And controversy surrounds it, with constant refuse dumping on the land, next to the river and near the gravesites. Also, trucks use Club Street and Linksfield Road to access the property.

The City of Joburg said it couldn’t do anything because the Department of Public Works owns the land.

The Star

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