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Monday May 14, 2012

We were wrong, admit unapproved property owners

The owners of a holiday home development on the South Coast, which was built without submission of any plans, have admitted they were wrong and have issued an apology.

However, it remains to be seen whether or not the Hibiscus Coast municipality will accept this and back off from its application in the Durban High Court for a demolition order.

The municipality went to court last month and secured an interim order, by consent, immediately stopping construction work on the Southport property owned by Crimson King Properties, which bought the 1 000m site in 2007 for R1.8 million.

In an affidavit before the court, the municipality's law enforcement officer, Thabani Mboyisa, said the property's zoning allowed only for the construction of one residential unit and yet three plush homes were being built.

And this, he said, was without a single plan having been submitted.

Mboyisa said contravention notices were ignored and natural indigenous flora had been cleared without any consent.

Crimson King directors Susan Lourens and Lourens Pretorius, of White River, have filed papers opposing the granting of the demolition order and pleading for time to correct the situation.

Pretorius, in his affidavit, says he now knows it was wrong to build without plan approval "but the shareholders had sunk considerable money into the investment and were anxious to use the property".

"I apologise to the court that the company did this. We are residents of White River and relied on what was said to us by our consultants."

Pretorius denies there are three separate houses on the land, saying it is a single dwelling with sections interlinked around a swimming pool. He said the entire development had been designed around the milkwood trees to avoid their destruction.

Pretorius said the lack of submission of building plans was "not for want of trying", but had been held up because they needed environmental approval, dependent on their paying a fine to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

He said the company had been fined a total of R760 000, with only one fine for R390 000 still payable.

He had lodged an appeal against this with the minister, but a decision was pending.

On top of this, because of complexities with the site, he also had to apply for special consent and only then could building plans be lodged for approval.

Pretorius admitted continuing work after the stopwork order was first issued, but said this was to complete the roof to avoid damage to the interior.

"I believe we will get environmental approval and that special consent will be granted. There is no reason then, why the building plan will not be approved. The application for the demolition order is premature.

"We have spent R1.8 million on buying the land and more than R2 million on improvements to date. It is in the interests of justice to allow us to complete our applications and for the outcome to be known before this application proceeds any further," he said, promising that no more building work would take place.

The municipality is expected to file its reply soon.

The Mercury

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