City tightens noose on illegal construction

Date: 04 Oct 2017

JOBURG builders who construct illegally without approved plans in place are set to be stopped in their tracks by municipal officials.

City residents have complained over many years that builders and developers simply start building and then get their plans retrospectively approved, as the courts are reluctant to grant demolition orders – or, it is claimed, they offer officials bribes to backdate plans.

Recently, the City of Joburg threatened to get a demolition order for the construction company Balwin, which was allegedly building a residential development in Kyalami without approved plans, but nothing was done.

At the time, Balwin told The Star it had approved plans, which local councillor Annette Deppe disputed.

Now the city’s building development management (BDM) directorate within the department of development planning says it’s determined to clamp down on illegal building.

The department has taken a resolution that all construction sites be compelled to install unique, city-issued construction notice boards with their building approval reference numbers.

According to BDM director Patt Mazibuko, the notice board is one of the department’s initiatives to monitor construction and development in Joburg.

Mazibuko added that inadequate checks and balances make it easy for developers to bypass the building regulations and start with development without municipal approval.

“One of our main objectives is for all approved sites to be easily identifiable.

“This will further enable the city to enforce the law accordingly where illegal and unflagged construction sites are identified,” she said.

The city’s building inspectors in all the seven regions collectively issue an average of between 200 and 300 contravention notices a month.

Some of the reported cases were repeat offences by property owners or developers, who continuously refused to comply with the city’s by-laws and regulations, said Mazibuko.

The construction signages will contain the BAS (Building Applications System) reference number which is aligned to the building-plans application, and the building inspector’s signature and contact details, as well as those of the assistant director or directors who allocated the construction site.

Other information on the boards will include details of the property owner or developer, the name of the builder, and the name of the registered architect and engineer with valid professional practice numbers.

Applicants will be required to pay a refundable amount for the construction of the notice boards upon the submission of their building plans at the Metro Link in Braamfontein.

No applications will be approved without payment.

Construction sites found with no signage, or where this is not visible, will be penalised.

The city’s development planning member of the mayoral committee, Funzela Ngobeni, said legal fees for illegal building cases cost the city at least R1.3 million a year.

In most cases, Ngobeni added, the city could, at most, recoup a quarter of that money.

“It then goes without saying that non-compliance by a few directly hampers service delivery for most of our residents, because funds that could be used for beneficial projects are being channelled towards litigation costs,” he said.

Ngobeni further urged residents, property owners and developers to comply with the city’s by-laws and regulations.

“This initiative will go a long way in bringing back order, particularly in the construction sector.

“For far too long have contraventions been left to spill over this way.

“We can no longer allow things to continue this way,” said Ngobeni.

Residents, however, have expressed doubts as to whether developers will comply and whether the city has the manpower to enforce the by-laws, as it had failed in the past.

One resident, who asked not to be named because he is embroiled in a court case with the developer of an illegal building next door to him, said: “This a huge joke.

“What makes the city think that a board will force developers to adhere to by-laws?

“They know very well that the city is toothless when it comes to illegal developments.

“There are not enough inspectors to go around. They keep threatening with demolition orders and nothing gets done.

“The building department simply backdates plans.”

By Anna Cox –

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