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Monday Oct 15, 2012

Business is booming in your neighbourhood

Nothing sours relations like having a neighbour convert his home into a money-spinner at your expense. The problem seems to be out of control in greater eThekwini, writes Vivian Attwood

A truck stop run by a businessman at the side of the road in Bonela is causing consternation and anger among residents..

We have received 15 letters from readers complaining about illegal businesses operating in residential areas.

When we intervene, we are generally fed a sob story by the culprits, who claim they are forced to run their enterprises from home because they cannot afford to rent commercial space.

Often the offending businesses, many of which have caused misery to the neighbours for years, are going like a bomb and generating a healthy income.

Because the departments of land use management and enforcement have a huge workload, and must ensure that they follow the letter of the law in pursuing infringements, prosecution can take a long time.

The culprits appear to be exploiting this and many pay the fines, then carry on with business as usual.

There is no easy answer to this problem, but CityWatch urges Durban ratepayers to be vigilant and report those who are breaking the law as soon as they can, to get the wheels rolling.

Residents of Blinkbonnie Road in Bonela have complained about a truck stop run by a businessman in their road.

Two of the complainants asked not to be named, but Pastor Jeremiah Kapotwe was happy to be identified.

"My complaint relates to a site at the corner of Blinkbonnie Road and Buckingham Road, which is a stop street.

"This site has been turned from a beautiful natural spot with virgin bush to a private trucking depot in a residential area. As a concerned resident, I'd like to know if the municipality gave permission for this irregular use of public land, and if so, on what grounds.

"We used to enjoy fresh air in the morning while waiting for taxis, but now it is full of dust and diesel fumes. Enquiries at the municipality have not met with success."

CityWatch visited Blinkbonnie Road and found matters just as residents had described.

Opposite the home of trucking business owner Yastheer Singh, on stand 457, excavated earth had been pushed on to an incline to make a muddy, rutted parking lot for a series of flatbed trucks. What appeared to be containers of fuel were stored in a separate, smaller vehicle.

Singh claimed that he was not creating a public nuisance; rather, he was performing a public service.

"This land was overgrown and rough elements used to hide here and rob people while they waited for taxis," he insisted.

"I cleared the place up at my own expense. It is just those who are jealous of my business success who complain to the newspapers."

The businessman claimed he had "been going to put up a fence and spotlights, and plant palms and make the place beautiful", but feared residents would use the area to dump rubbish.

Asked whether he had been granted permission from the council for the current land usage, Singh produced a stamped and signed document purporting to be from estate officer Mark Kerby of eThekwini land use management.

The stated use of the land was "parking and beautification". CityWatch asked Kerby to clarify "parking" as there was clearly no "beautification" going on.

Kerby referred the matter to his superiors in the department of land use management, and the communications unit of eThekwini Municipality.

Thabo Mofokeng, spokesman for the unit, said they were investigating the complaint and promised a full response next week.

Sunday Tribune

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