Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Johannesburg - The City of Joburg has taken drastic action on building approval abuse by issuing 54 demolition orders that will see these structures flattened to the ground.

The city warned that the days of developers hiding behind temporary building permits were over. It plans to carry out the demolition orders within the next few months - two of which will be done before the end of August.

Amolemo Mothoagae, the city’s director of development planning, said there had been some internal problems within the department, but these were being sorted out.

These included the suspension of the building control officer in April for misconduct. He was charged regarding irregularities in the issuing of Section 7(6) notices (provisional building authority), to developers, resulting in developments taking place without approved plans.

Many construction companies apply for, and hide behind, this approval without going through the other proper building application procedures. These approvals are valid for only three months and yet are being used over many months as an excuse to continue building.

Before being issued with these temporary permits, the city has to be satisfied that all planning regulations have been complied with before any above-ground structural work can start.

“We are examining the legal processes and the status of these orders. We are very serious about this now and the mayor, Herman Mashaba, has instructed that all illegally built structures be demolished.”

Mothoagea said some smaller demolitions had already taken place, such as one in Alexandra, where a property owner had made illegal additions, including building over a water and sewage pipe.

“It was done peacefully as the community was standing behind us,” she said.

Meetings would be held this week to take the matter further to speed up demolitions, she added.

The cost of a legal application costs the council between R6000 and R15000, depending on the size of the development.

Earlier this year, the city took out an order against Century Property Developments to stop construction after they started building student accommodation in Auckland Park, allegedly without plans.

The city withdrew its Section 7(6) application and the construction was stopped.

Century, at the time, told The Star that the stand was bought with existing residential rights and relying on the fact that the city, in its new spatial development framework 2040, includes higher densities along bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes, encouraging the use of public transport rather than private transport.

“We submitted our rezoning application in 2016. After receiving all the necessary service reports and the approval of them, as well as discussions with the council’s town planners, the rights we applied for were reduced before the application was supported by the council.

“A hearing was held in August 2017 where we motivated our application and argued against objectors’ concerns. The council supported our application and approved the application in September last year,” Century spokesperson Japie Vos said.

Later their S7(6) approval was withdrawn for the development along with many other such approvals issued to various developers in Joburg without due legal process being followed and with no reasons for the withdrawal provided, he said.

Kyalami residents have also been complaining for years about illegal developments in the area. Kristin Kallesen, chairperson of the Greater Kyalami Conservancy, said numerous buildings, including schools and residential developments, had gone up without approvals, including on wetland areas.

“Chartwell and Farmall committees had an interesting meeting with the MMC for development planning recently about illegal buildings. We are so sick of inappropriate development happening and the city, mostly its building control section, doing nothing about it.

“No solutions were offered, but it does seem as if some things are improving, including the 54 demolition orders, which include some townhouses. At least it sends out the right message,” she said.

In July last year, a residential development in Crowthorne was stopped by residents and by ward councillor Annette Deppe because of construction without proper approvals. Deppe is also the whip for the Section 79 oversight committee of development planning.

“Unscrupulous developers need to get the message: the days of riding roughshod over the residents of Joburg is over. No one is above the law. What might have been condoned in the past will certainly not be condoned today,” Deppe said.

@annacox

The Star