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Wednesday May 09, 2018

Joburg building plan approvals halted

A standoff between rival political parties has virtually paralysed Joburg's construction industry, with no building plan approvals, inspections or rezonings approved since April 17.

The stalemate between the DA-led council and ANC and EFF councillors appears far from being resolved as the industry bleeds and incurs costs.

Yesterday, after the DA-led administration's third attempt to appoint a building control officer - who is the only person in the Joburg council who has the powers to approve building plans - the ANC and EFF once again voted against the appointment.

The ANC is adamant it won't approve the appointment until a proper report has been submitted to council on the suspension of the former building control officer on April 17, the date from which there have been no approvals.

The party also claims no proper legal procedures were followed.

The building control officer, in terms of building regulations, can only be appointed by a full sitting of the council.

This, in effect, means that no building, including minor residential extensions, commercial, rezonings, industrial or retail development plans, can be approved.

This is costing residents and developers millions of rand - some as much as R300 000 a day - as they have received bank finance and loans for construction which they have to service.

The chairperson of the city's planning committee, Graham de Kock, said it was unfortunate that the public and developers had to suffer collateral damage as a result of a political battle.

He said the only way members of the public could get their plans approved was through the courts, adding that an unfortunate consequence was that people would start building illegally and without plans.

"Developers have costs to carry and they cannot wait for this appointment to be finalised, which could take weeks, if not months," De Kock said.

The DA-led administration says the city's economy is being held to ransom.

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba has accused the ANC of deliberately preventing the appointment of a temporary building control officer.

"The ANC's insistence on delaying the deliberation of this matter will only serve to harm the best interests of our residents and frustrate development in the city."

However, the ANC's Ruby Mathang said the stalemate would never end until the DA-led council produced a proper report about the suspension of the former building control officer and proper procedures were followed.

"The council took short cuts in the suspension and did not follow legal procedures in bringing the matter to full council.

"It is unheard of that a city the size of Joburg has not approved plans for almost a month."

Mathang added that he had already received reports from developers that they would either start building illegally, or would have to lay off workers while waiting for the matter to be resolved.

The spokesperson for a group of builders and developers, Willie van Wyk, said they were now bringing lawyers on board to start legal action to force the city to either approve or reject plans.

"People are being forced into building illegally to save money. This has also resulted in a free-for-all in the building industry as there are no inspections being carried out, resulting in people building as and when they please," Van Wyk said.

Century Development spokesperson Japie Vos said it was costing his company R300 000 a day in standing costs.

"It is a pity that the appointment was turned down. This certainly affects developers negatively, but the effect it has on the subcontractors and employees employed on the various construction sites is the real issue.

"These subcontractors and employees are much more affected as they are normally the main breadwinners for their families," Vos said.

The suspended building control officer faces a number of allegations, including irregularities in the issuing of notices to developers, resulting in developments taking place without approved plans, creating a law enforcement burden for the city, resulting in a loss of revenue and failure to implement geoscience reports, which pre-empted possible collapsing of houses in Lenasia and Protea Glen in Soweto early this year."

MMC for development planning Reuben Masango defended the suspension of the previous building control officer, saying he was disappointed that an official in such a vital position "could have failed to uphold the roles and responsibilities bestowed upon them".

Anna Cox
The Star

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