UPDATE: Development Tribunal land swop

SITE VISIT: Residents and interested parties gather at the site where proposed development is planned to be built.

The RECORD recently published a story in its July 19 edition, about developers who plan to develop medium density housing on a piece of land that was originally zoned for educational purposes and that the department of education swapped developers.

The land in question is on Erf 279, at 2 Joyce Street (corner Phantom), Alberante/Raceview area.

On July 12, a site inspection, followed by a tribunal meeting was held to discuss the situation.

At the site meeting residents pointed out problems with the proposal, namely the sewage that overflows regularly, traffic congestion, lack of infrastructure, existing residents being adversely affected and so on.

The tribunal meeting saw several role players introduce themselves and put their points forward.

School needs to expand

A resident who has been very involved with the saga since the beginning, and would like to remain anonymous, had the following to say:

“When notices were put up in 2013, indicating the intention to rezone stand 279 from educational (as still indicated on the notice boards on the stand) to residential three (medium to high density housing), well over 100 objections were handed to the council. These objections were mainly as a result of the totally overloaded schools (Alberview with a design capacity of 750 learners catering for more than 1 300 learners for the past few years), with the only possibility of relief being expansion on the stand across the road. At this time the school had to refuse entrance to 250 of the almost 500 new applications,” he said.

“Considering this reaction, the developer as well as town planning personnel subsequently attended a ward meeting under the chairmanship of councillor Haipel where he offered to reduce the number of units, as well as the height of these, from three to two storeys. This, however, was rejected as it did not address the schooling dilemma. A request was made that all existing objections should remain valid for any further applications because any successful application would prevent any critical school expansion. Furthermore, such applications would require a new traffic study,” he said. According to the resident, this is crucial since the existing study for the initial application was flawed because it was taken one day before the school holidays and showed only about 50 per cent of the normal traffic flow indicated in previous traffic studies in connection with the adjacent Alberante/Randhart security enclosure.


Objections disqualified

“As there were no objections to these requests and a second application was posted in 2015, it came as a great surprise at the Development Tribunal that all previous objections had been disqualified because the new application was supposedly “completely” different. The fact that this excluded the main stakeholders (the schools) from the hearing which also took place in the middle of school holidays resulted in the presence of only 20 listed objectors of which only 10 could attend due to holiday commitments,” he continued.

“In addition, the official notifications were in some cases only received a day before the meeting (which had an agenda of over 150 pages), with emails (to notify objectors who did not supply a physical address) posted three days after the statutory notification date, which invalidated the entire process. Despite this the chairlady declared the notification procedure in order.

Postponement refused

It is further reported that a motion was raised by the objectors to postpone the tribunal to a more appropriate date to allow all the main stakeholders to attend. “This was refused and the meeting got underway with the applicant’s team explaining the necessity for high density housing on the property, initially of 65 units on the portion nearest to the schools with the option of rezoning the remainder of the stand (listed as community ground) at a later stage if nobody is willing to build a private school or other community facility on this portion could be found. If this is agreed to, there is of course no possibility of any expansion for Alberview Primary school,” he said.

The resident also complained about the fact that there was no new traffic study included in the new application. “As the original application had been withdrawn officially, without any notification to the objectors as had been requested officially, the application was in fact incomplete and all references made to it by council officials were of course also illegal as it no longer existed officially,” he stated.

Land swap investigated

The resident also said: “One of the objectors mentioned the fact that the legality of the land swap transaction between the applicant and the Gauteng Department of Education was now being investigated at the highest level as among others the stand was never advertised and none of the schools in the area had ever been consulted at the time.

“As these schools are the only ones in the area, the question was asked where children would find schooling as a result of the ongoing densification. No answer was offered to the dilemma that hundreds of parents would have to commute to schools way outside the area due to the council’s obsession to allow high density housing complexes on every available piece of open land thereby relinquishing any responsibility about the infrastructure required for education in the face of an expanding society,” said the resident.

Developer’s comment

“The matter is currently sub judice as the parties await the decision of the tribunal. We therefore deem it inappropriate that the matter be retried in the papers. We will state that we do not agree that the issues raised by this objector is correct, however these issues were raised at the hearing. The tribunal will make a decision in that regard. It should be noted that the developer is not in control of the objections submitted, the process followed at the hearing or to the notices to arrange a hearing.

“As far as the objector’s concern regarding our first application: The developer gave no reassurances at a community meeting that all objections would be kept in perpetuity. The first application was withdrawn and the second application submitted as per council requirements. Therefore all objectors had the same opportunity to object to the new application, if they so choose.”

The RECORD is awaiting comment from the Department of Education and the Ekurhuleni Metro. The RECORD will also make contact with the governing bodies of the schools closest to the proposed development, Alberview Primary and Alberton High School.

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David Pienaar

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