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Friday Jul 28, 2017

Joburg probes building approval abuse

The City of Joburg is set to clamp down on developers and builders who build without permission or approved plans.

In what is to believed to be a serious precedent, the city is processing a back-dated interdict against a major development company, Balwin Properties, for the illegal construction of some 1 000 units, The Whisken, in Crawthorne.

Balwin allegedly started building without approval. If the interdict is successful, and the company continues building, the chief executive could face arrest.

The city ordered Balwin to cease construction, and although the company agreed to it, they continued building. In fact, they have advertised that the units will be ready for occupation by August, despite there being no occupation certificates issued.

Balwin has no approval from the city, the registered objectors have not been given a hearing before the tribunal and the council has not given any permission.

But the buildings are already at third-storey level.

Stephen Brookes, chief executive of Balwin, told The Star the company had had a section 7(6) approval (certificate) from Joburg's building control department. He said Balwin had stopped construction on site and that the future residents had not taken occupation.

Balwin claims in papers that The Star has seen, that all the objections have been withdrawn. Various residents' associations, which have objected, maintain their objections are still in place.

It appears Balwin got a section 7(6) certificate allowing building to commence, which a highly-placed source at the city said had been issued irregularly.

The source said this was now being investigated as the certificate should not have been issued, because there are no approvals in place. The original land application is still under evaluation, rendering construction illegal. In any case, the 7 (6) certificate only lasts three months, which has long since expired.

"The problem with the 7 (6) certificate is to do with National Building Regulations and the Building Standards Act. While this act refers to the applicable law, the city has to be satisfied that all planning legislation has been complied with before entertaining applications and any above-ground structural work.

The certificate is more than a year old and is no longer valid.

"I want to see evidence of action taken to prevent further construction, by the latest starting six months after the date of the issue of the certificate.

"Apart from being highly irresponsible issuing the certificate in the first place, it is pure negligence doing nothing about keeping a tight rein on the site in the absence of ensuring compliance," said Annette Deppe, the ward councillor.

Deppe confirmed that notices had been served and that the city was now applying for a backdated interdict to set an example to other developers, as the courts rarely grant eviction orders.

The city also wants to apply reputational pressure on the developer, a listed company.

Several residents' associations - Carlswald, Glen Austin and Vorna Valley - got together and formed the Midrand Alliance to stop the building.

Chris Symons of the Carlswald Residents Association said they had constantly objected to the development, but their objections had been disregarded.

"There appears to be corruption, because the city has done nothing. We have been putting lots of pressure on the city, but nothing gets done.

"If it is true, as rumour has it that the chief executive is to be arrested, that is indeed good news," he said.

Marianne Nel of the Vorna Valley Residents Association said residents had been fighting this development for years.

"It is not only Balwin, but other developers as well, who build when and where they like because the council does nothing. These developers walk all over us residents. We have been fighting this for years," she said.

The City of Joburg confirmed it had applied for an interdict.

"The city wants to assure residents that action gets taken when matters of illegal building are reported. Inspectors conduct regular inspections and issue notices," said city spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane.

The Star


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