No cheap houses in our paradise!
Golf estate objected to low-cost housing on its doorstep
● 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.