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Thursday Nov 07, 2013

Durban court halts Morningside property development

A Durban High Court judge took a firm stand yesterday against the developers of an almost completed residential building in Morningside, stopping them from finishing construction pending a review of the city's approval of their building plans some nine months after work began on site.

Work has been stopped on this development in Montpelier Road in Durban after neighbours obtained a high court order yesterday.

In terms of a final order granted yesterday, the Sayed Family Trust, developers of the Montpelier Road site, may only continue with work which the eThekwini Municipality deems essential for safety reasons - including putting on a roof with guttering and completing a retaining wall.

Neighbours - furious about the construction of what they call a 'monstrosity'- brought the urgent interdict application before Judge Rashid Vahed, saying most of it had been built illegally and they believed the ultimate approval of the plan, apparently after eight or nine previous plans had been rejected, should never have happened.

Among those who have objected are lawyers Shahir Ramdass and Dave McNaught, who live in an upmarket building in the adjacent Springfield Road and who say the values of their properties have been slashed because of development, which has blocked their sweeping sea views and is not in keeping with the area.

Should they win their review application - set down for March next year - it is possible the trust may have to demolish the building in line with a recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision in which Rhodes tax professor Matthew Lester was ordered to demolish his R8 million mansion in Kenton-on-Sea because he had built - without approved plans.

Advocate Murray Pitman, for Ramdass and the other neighbours, argued yesterday that building had commenced in January this year and had continued unabated, in spite of the city having issued a stopwork notice.

The plans had only been approved in September, he said, and any inconvenience now caused by the interdict was through their own making because they had built 'at risk'.

'They now argue that because it is almost complete, they should be allowed to finish it.

'In the eyes of the general public this is ludicrous. They knowingly broke the law. This is an extremely important case for Durban as a whole because the city and the courts are continuously held to ransom by developers acting illegally.'

Advocate Douglas Tobias, for the trust, argued that the building was now legal.

He said at the very least, the trust should be allowed to put on the roof and put windows in.

The judge, while adamant that building had to be curbed, said he could not turn a blind eye to submissions that the structural integrity of the building could be at risk without a roof covering, and said he was inclined to permit this, and a drainage system, but 'nothing else'.

He also specifically ordered that the trust would not be entitled to raise as a defence to any possible demolition order, the work and costs incurred in doing this work.

Should the city believe any other work was necessary, it would first have to get the permission of the applicants and, failing that, come back to court.

Ramdass, in his affidavit, described the 'run-around' he got from the developers and the city to his prolific questions about the development and to his attempts to see the approved plans.

The Mercury


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