‘Not in our view’ - Chase Valley residents

Chase Valley residents are disputing the legality of the Woodlands low-cost housing development which recently sprung into their view without proper public consultation.

For years the objectors have enjoyed scenic views of a plantation between Otto’s Bluff and Chase Valley. None of them anticipated that Msunduzi would be clearing the forest for a housing project until it recently happened.

“No one bothered to tell us anything even though this development is going to be right in our faces.

“My personal objection is the destruction of my forest view which was a major factor choosing to live here,” said Cameron Brisbane.

Brisbane is among the ratepayers who have formally lodged an objection with the municipality.

Resident Ryan Naidu said the development might be a few kilometres from their homes but he was certain it would affect the value of their properties.

His sentiments were shared by Bernadette Thomas, who said it might prove difficult to sell their properties if they decided to relocate in the future.

“This project is simply illegal … There is simply no consideration for the rights of the ratepayers in this city,” she said.

Other property owners said their concerns had been exacerbated by the allegations that the municipality was planning to build thousands of units in the area as part of one of its “catalytic projects” but the environmental impact assessment (EIA) had not been conducted. “The EIA is undertaken in order to ensure that the environment is protected but I guess the municipality felt it is okay to do as it pleases since the forest belongs to them,” said Naidu.

Attempts to get comment from Msunduzi were unsuccessful, but according to official minutes from a ward 25 community meeting that was held last month, the City officials apparently told those in attendance that this was an Operation Sukuma Sakhe development and was therefore considered an “emergency project”.

“But this is not emergency housing, it is permanent. There is an emergency assistance programme under the housing subsidy scheme that provides basic shelter and housing until permanent housing can be delivered,” said Brisbane.

He said many municipalities had used it to establish “transit camps” which — like Jika Joe — become semi-permanent because there was no permanent housing to follow once the “emergency” had passed.

Apparently Msunduzi has two housing developments planned for the area.

The first proposed site was in ward 29 but after public consultation was conducted the residents objected as they were not benefiting from the project. The Woodlands extension was then identified as the nearest site as it was also closer to Emalahleni.

When the site was identified the area reportedly fell under Ward 32 but the Municipal Demarcation Board removed that portion of land to ward 25 when the municipal boundaries were reconfigured prior the 2016 local government elections.

The residents of Emalahleni are said to be the beneficiaries of the first phase of the development. The initial plan was to build 180 four-roomed houses but due to the road reserve that belongs to Sanral it was reduced to 160 units.

Sanral had 13 proposed routes and the one affecting the project is route 13 as it runs through the forest that is being cleared. It is currently regarded as the most feasible route and has been prioritised for construction.

The second phase is a five- to 10-year plan which would include middle class family homes, flats and other social infrastructure.