Sunday Times

No cheap houses in our par­adise!

Golf es­tate ob­jected to low-cost hous­ing on its doorstep

- By BONGANI MTHETHWA Business · South Africa News · KwaZulu-Natal · Indian Ocean · Hyde Park · Hyde Park · KwaDukuza · Iceland · Belgium · Richard J. Evans

● Ex­clu­sive KwaZulu-Natal north coast es­tate Prince’s Grant prides it­self on be­ing a quiet oa­sis of­fer­ing golf with breath­tak­ing views, lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion and fine din­ing, set amid scenic beauty on the crys­tal­blue In­dian Ocean.

So there was no way that the es­tate’s golf­ing and SUV bri­gade were go­ing to agree to hav­ing a “town­ship es­tab­lish­ment” in­clud­ing 2,400 rel­a­tively low-cost hous­ing units built next door.

The Prince’s Grant Home­own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion lodged an ob­jec­tion to the 218ha mixe­duse Hyde Park Coun­try Es­tate pro­posed by the KwaDukuza mu­nic­i­pal­ity and backed by the depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments, say­ing the project would lower the tone of the neigh­bour­hood.

Now the R3bn de­vel­op­ment — which would also have fea­tured lux­ury homes, res­tau­rants, of­fices, a shop­ping com­plex and a com­mu­nity cen­tre along­side the low-cost hous­ing — has been put on ice.

The KwaDukuza mu­nic­i­pal­ity ter­mi­nated the ser­vices of the im­ple­ment­ing agent — Simsi Group, which is owned by black women — in Au­gust, cit­ing a court judg­ment against the com­pany.

Richard Evans, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the home­own­ers, said in ob­ject­ing to the de­vel­op­ment in a let­ter in Septem­ber last year that the as­so­ci­a­tion had not been given prior no­tice of the pro­posal as re­quired by law.

The as­so­ci­a­tion also raised con­cerns that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was both player and ref­eree in the process to win ap­proval for the de­vel­op­ment.

“On the ba­sis that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is the ap­pli­cant, it is ques­tioned how the mu­nic­i­pal­ity can con­sider this ap­pli­ca­tion in an in­de­pen­dent and un­bi­ased man­ner,” Evans said.

“This is par­tic­u­larly so when state­ments are found in the mo­ti­va­tion in­di­cat­ing that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has pri­ori­tised the ap­pli­ca­tion prop­erty for de­vel­op­ment.”

Evans said Prince’s Grant was im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the pro­posed “town­ship es­tab­lish­ment” and there­fore had “a di­rect and le­git­i­mate in­ter­est” in the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Our client hereby ob­jects to the ap­pli­ca­tion. At this stage, our client is not fully aware of all the facts and cir­cum­stances re­sult­ing in [it] be­ing omit­ted from the statu­tory no­ti­fi­ca­tion process.

“Our client only be­came aware of the ap­pli­ca­tion when two lever-arch files of doc­u­ments were de­liv­ered a short while ago.”

KwaDukuza mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Sipho Mkhize said le­gal con­cerns raised by the home­owner as­so­ci­a­tion in­cluded non­com­pli­ance with pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion pro­vi­sions in the Spa­tial Plan­ning and Land Use Man­age­ment Act and with the pro­vi­sions of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s land-use man­age­ment scheme. It also ques­tioned the va­lid­ity of some of the doc­u­men­ta­tion in the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“The ob­jec­tor raised con­cerns with re­gards to the lay­out plan, which in­cluded the con­sid­er­a­tion of en­gi­neer­ing as­pects such as the slope and pro­vi­sion of roads,” Mkhize said. “Fur­ther­more, the ob­jec­tor raised con­cerns with re­gards to flood­lines and po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment on these flood­lines as well as the wet­lands and as­so­ci­ated buf­fer ar­eas.”

Simsi Group CEO Moreri Khoza said when the project was first mooted, the home­own­ers as­sumed it was a Re­con­struc­tion & De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme hous­ing project.

“In 2012, af­ter the land ac­qui­si­tion, I con­tacted them to ad­vise them of the ap­proach and the con­cept but I was told that they don’t want the gov­ern­ment project there as it was go­ing to de­value their area,” she said. “I was told that they would use every­thing to en­sure that the de­vel­op­ment doesn’t hap­pen.”

Khoza said the project had been dogged by de­lays as a re­sult of ob­jec­tions.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity pur­chased the land ear­marked for the de­vel­op­ment for R55m. Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments seen by the Sun­day Times, one of the con­di­tions stip­u­lated by the depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments was that the project should com­mence within 24 months of the land pur­chase — which did not hap­pen — fail­ing which the prop­erty had to re­vert back to the depart­ment.

Khoza said the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager of KwaDukuza, Joshua Mdakane, had told Simsi its in­volve­ment was be­ing ter­mi­nated be­cause of a fi­nal judg­ment against the com­pany granted in the KwaDukuza mag­is­trate’s court in De­cem­ber last year.

In a let­ter to Simsi, Mdakane said: “In terms of clause 29.4 of the de­vel­op­ment agree­ment, ‘The agree­ment shall ter­mi­nate im­me­di­ately if a party has a fi­nal judg­ment or ar­bi­tra­tion award against it and fails to sat­isfy such judg­ment or award within 14 days of such judg­ment or award be­com­ing fi­nal.’ ”

Mdakane did not say why Simsi’s ser­vices were ter­mi­nated only af­ter eight months had passed since the court judg­ment.

Simsi Group has re­sponded by is­su­ing a fi­nal let­ter of de­mand against the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for R1.7bn in costs it said it had in­curred since 2014, and has asked the depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments to re­view the le­gal im­pli­ca­tions of all con­tracts re­lat­ing to the Hyde Park Coun­try Es­tate pro­posal.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­nied that it owed Simsi Group any­thing, and said it would op­pose any lit­i­ga­tion at­tempts by Khoza.

The depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments did not re­spond to queries.

A four-bed­roomed, four-bath­room house with two garages in Prince’s Grant sells for R7m. In the Hyde Park project, two-bed­room homes were in­tended to be avail­able for R600,000, with a R1.5m price tag for the most ex­pen­sive house.

 ?? Pic­ture: Jackie Clausen ?? Moreri Khoza, CEO of Simsi Group, out­side Prince’s Grant on the north coast.
Pic­ture: Jackie Clausen Moreri Khoza, CEO of Simsi Group, out­side Prince’s Grant on the north coast.
 ??  ?? Above and be­low, an artist’s im­pres­sion of what some of the Hyde Park Coun­try Es­tate build­ings would have looked like.
Above and be­low, an artist’s im­pres­sion of what some of the Hyde Park Coun­try Es­tate build­ings would have looked like.
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