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Wednesday Oct 10, 2012

Douglasdale retirement village built illegally, says Joburg council

A huge retirement village in Douglasdale, consisting of more than 420 units, has been built with no approved site development or building plans, yet elderly residents are already moving in.

In doing so, they risk their bonds being rejected and insurance claims being repudiated because they do not have occupation certificates.

The City of Joburg has confirmed the development is illegal because there are no approved plans and no occupancy certificates for it. The council plans to take action.

Neighbours are complaining that the development has devalued their properties because its balconies overlook their gardens and swimming pool areas.

They also complain that the City of Joburg, knowing that building for the Douglasdale Retirement Estate had not been approved, has failed to stop developers from continuing with construction.

City of Joburg spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane says the developer had, in terms of the national building regulations and standards, applied for permission to start building "while the formal building plan process is unfolding. This is done in terms of section 7(6) of the national building regulations. The council is obliged to consider such a request from a developer."

However, without plan approval and an occupancy certificate, the development is deemed illegal, he says.

"Any party who purchases a unit that has not been issued with an occupation certificate runs the risk of his bond being rejected and any insurance claim being repudiated.

"It is also possible that the developer will not be paid his final payment by his financial institution without this certificate being issued," says Modingoane.

A site development plan has been in circulation since last year, with support received from all affected entities, but it has not been approved, he adds.

Modingoane says formal building plans have been submitted, but not approved. These plans can be finalised only once the site development plan has been approved.

"It is an express condition of the building regulations that no occupation will be permitted until the formal plans have been approved. Any such occupation is deemed illegal, and action will be taken," he says.

Neighbours around the development have been complaining since building first started.

They claim the building exceeds the allowed height restrictions, and the development is imposing on and devaluing their properties.

Stewart Steven says his property has been devalued from R7 million to R3.5m because the estate's flats look on to his garden.

"We were not notified about this development. People] are unaware that unless they object months before anything is even started, they lose their rights."

Steven says that although developers have a permit to temporarily continue building at risk, they get so far along the process that nobody will hold them to account.

"When building at risk, building inspectors do not inspect as they can only inspect on, and against, final plans, which in this case have not been submitted yet.

"So all of this has been built without a single inspection. How can such a huge development get this far with only temporary consent?" he asks.

Steven says the developers had promised to build a wall and plant trees, but reneged on these promises.

Ward councillor Susan Mottram says she had been shown plans by the developers, but these were not the final, approved plans.

The developer, Central Development Property Group, however, is adamant that it has the necessary approvals.

The Star

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