Too loud for residents and students
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.
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.