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Tuesday Apr 24, 2012

Natal Command site property development in the balance

The Court might have ruled in his favour, but Anant Singh's dream of building a film studio on the sought-after Natal Command site on the Durban beachfront is still on shaky ground.

In an exclusive interview with The Mercury yesterday, eThekwini municipal manager S'bu Sithole said that the issue had to be revisited "with all stakeholders" to determine whether a film studio was what the city really needed.

He said the Natal Command site near Battery Beach was a "strategic" piece of land for the city from a tourism point of view and it was an economic hub. "The city still owns the land. I remain bound by what my predecessors did, but there is need for a revisit."

Sithole said the interest of the city was paramount.

He explained that what Durban needed was something to inject new interest in the area and which would "make us distinct as eThekwini... We need something iconic like the Moses Mabhida Stadium," he said.

According to Sithole, any new development would be around for the next 30 to 50 years, so "if you make wrong choices now, you are going to regret it for a long time".

He said he had already asked his team to contact Singh and arrange a meeting. Sithole said that perhaps some of the motivation proffered at the time was still valid, but the land still belonged to the municipality and no money had changed hands yet. "So it's (still) an open issue."

Singh's battle to acquire the land has in itself been the stuff that movies are made of. And his woes are far from over since Pietermaritzburg businessman Sunny Gayadin has warned that he will take the matter to the Constitutional Court. Gayadin, who challenged the municipality's decision to sell the land to Singh, made the decision after the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he could not challenge the municipality's decision because he was not a ratepayer in the municipality.

While the agreement was that Singh would pay R15m for the land, Gayadin had previously offered to pay R150m for it. Last week, Singh said he was delighted that the appeal court had ruled in his favour.

Writing in The Mercury's sister newspaper the Sunday Tribune last week, Singh stated: "Our... intention was to ensure that together with the city authorities, we would create a development that set the benchmark for future megaprojects, targeting new and exciting industries that would be economic drivers."

The Mercury


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