JOBURG’S SOHO

Too loud for res­i­dents and stu­dents

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - AN­GELIQUE SER­RAO

HOW DO you de­velop an area into a multi-use space with res­i­den­tial and en­ter­tain­ment prop­er­ties right next to each other, with­out there be­ing prob­lems?

The ques­tion is at the heart of an is­sue be­ing faced by Braam­fontein res­i­dents, who say the high noise lev­els cre­ated by night­clubs, bars and spe­cial city func­tions – such as street par­ties – have be­come in­tol­er­a­ble. They say the racket, par­tic­u­larly at night, is in­ter­fer­ing with their lives and the abil­ity of the thou­sands of stu­dents, who make the area a home, to study.

Over the past few years Braam­fontein has been the fo­cus of a de­vel­op­ment plan, which has seen the sub­urb be­come highly sought after, nu­mer­ous build­ings turned into stu­dent res­i­dences and the open­ing of popular restau­rants and night­clubs.

It is next to Wits Univer­sity and is also home to nu­mer­ous schools and col­leges.

But res­i­dents say the night­clubs and bars have in­creased noise pol­lu­tion and en­ter­tain­ment venues have been al­lowed to open right next to res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties.

Ares­i­dent who did not want to be named said there was a high first-year fail­ure rate at univer­si­ties and a new crop of stu­dents ar­rived at res­i­dences ev­ery year.

“No nat­u­ral con­stituency ex­ists that is able to lodge noise com­plaints or ob­jec­tions for zon­ing and liquor li­cences. Th­ese young res­i­dents are not aware of their rights or the in­tri­ca­cies of zon­ing by-laws, nor do they know who to com­plain to.”

He said there was a pol­icy is­sue at the heart of the prob­lem in the area.

“There is a re­luc­tance by the City of Jo­han­nes­burg to hold night­clubs or other en­ter­tain­ment busi­nesses that are break­ing the zon­ing and noise pol­lu­tion laws ac­count­able, in­flu­enced by the JDA’s (Jo­han­nes­burg De­vel­op­ment Agency) pol­icy of en­cour­ag­ing their de­vel­op­ment,” a res­i­dent said.

The JDA has of­ten de­scribed the area as Joburg’s own Soho, an en­ter­tain­ment area in London “which iron­i­cally does not have any ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions”, a res­i­dent said.

Apart from the clubs, there have been com­plaints that the Jo­han­nes­burg Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee was grant­ing per­mis­sion for one-off events like street par­ties and other events that of­ten have loud mu­sic.

The res­i­dent said that hap­pened with­out al­low­ing for ob­jec­tions.

“Braam­fontein is ef­fec­tively be­ing trans­formed into a theme park for the af­flu­ent; with no con­sid­er­a­tion be­ing given to the res­i­dents who are vul­ner­a­ble and dis­ad­van­taged.

“The night­clubs in gen­eral are not fre­quented by the res­i­dents of Braam­fontein, but by vis­i­tors,” he said.

The res­i­dent said the City of Joburg was ef­fec­tively dis­crim­i­nat­ing against those who lived in the area.

For in­stance night­clubs were not al­lowed next to or near res­i­den­tial dwellings in Sand­ton.

“I asked a sec­ond-year stu­dent from Lim­popo how she copes with the noise and she replied that she uses her head­phones. This should not be hap­pen­ing.”

City of Joburg spokesman Nthatisi Modin­goane said the en­vi­ron­men­tal health depart­ment had re­ceived a num­ber of noise com­plaints.

He said they is­sued no­tices, con­ducted after-hours in­spec­tions and re­ported il­le­gal de­vel­op­ments to the plan­ning depart­ment. “Follow-up in­spec­tions will be on­go­ing and pros­e­cu­tions will be served for those who con­tra­vene the Noise Con­trol Reg­u­la­tions and the Business Act.”

Modin­goane said that when ap­pli­ca­tions were sub­mit­ted the lo­ca­tion and all sur­round­ing uses were taken into ac­count in the eval­u­a­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tions. No­tices were given to res­i­dents in ad­vance for spe­cial events in their res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

Wits Univer­sity Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (SRC) pres­i­dent Mcebo Dlamini said the coun­cil was con­cerned about the noise at stu­dent res­i­dences.

“If only Wits Univer­sity stu­dents stayed there then the noise could be bet­ter reg­u­lated, but non-stu­dents stay there, too. It is a mess,” Dlamini said.

He said there was a short­age of res­i­dences, par­tic­u­larly for first-year stu­dents and the SRC wanted Wits to own more build­ings in Braam­fontein.

Dean of stu­dents Dr Pamela Dube said that as an ur­ban univer­sity, Wits Univer­sity saw Braam­fontein and its de­vel­op­ment as an in­te­gral part of the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Braam­fontein is a melt­ing pot of peo­ple, cul­tures and ideas which we be­lieve is part of the over­all learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Dube said.

She said the univer­sity had not re­ceived many com­plaints from stu­dents or mem­bers of the pub­lic.

“There are also al­ter­na­tive op­tions for Wits stu­dents to study on our cam­puses, in li­braries, tu­to­rial rooms and other fa­cil­i­ties if they need quiet spa­ces in which to study,” Dube said.

She said there was no ev­i­dence of a cor­re­la­tion be­tween noise lev­els and the first-year fail­ure rate.

One of the busi­nesses that op­er­ates in the area is South Point. Its core business is stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion, but it also owns en­ter­tain­ment venues, in­clud­ing Rand­lords which is an event venue at the top of an of­fice block.

South Point pro­vides ac­com­mo­da­tion to nearly 5 000 stu­dents in Braam­fontein.

Chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Ndu­miso David­son said its stu­dent life team en­sured stu­dent events were built around aca­demic cal­en­dars and exam sched­ules.

“We have in­vested more than R1 bil­lion into Braam­fontein over the past decade,” said David­son.

He said it had had few com­plaints from res­i­dents and re­ceived no com­plaints from stu­dents.

“Braam­fontein is by de­sign a high-den­sity sub­urb that of­fers a clas­sic live-work-playstudy-visit ur­ban so­lu­tion that de­fines any suc­cess­ful stu­dent­friendly dis­trict else­where in the world,” he said.

PIC­TURES: AN­TOINE DE RAS

CATCH­ING UP: The his­tor­i­cal Kitch­en­ers Carvery Bar in Braam­fontein is popular among stu­dents and non-stu­dents alike, but many com­plain that the area has be­come too noisy.

CHILLED: A group of peo­ple so­cialise at Mick­eys, a popular pub and grub in Braam­fontein.

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