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Opposition to proposed Walmer Gqebera Housing Development gaining pace

Opposition to proposed Walmer Gqebera Housing Development gaining pace

Home owners in the affluent suburb of Walmer Heights say they are ready to take on the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality – even in court, in their bid to have the municipality shelve its plans to build around 1400 low cost housing units, connecting into Walmer Hieghts from Beethoven Avenue.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is hoping that a proposed RDP project will cater for families currently living at informal settlements in Walmer’s Gqebera area. The RDP homes will be built just 200 metres from Beethoven Avenue and luxury estates such as Walmer Heights Beau Monte estate.

Gathering pace

“[To date,] we have gathered over 300 signatures in petition to stop this development in its current proposed form. This represents over 300+ homes in Walmer Heights,” said Lawrence Joubert, leader of the objection campaign, told RNews.

“We are waiting on SRK Consulting to proceed with their EIA study. It is now delayed due to suspected corruption that was exposed by two companies involved in the planning. Aurecon Group is currently investigating irregularities in the way information was released to the residents of Walmer Heights.

“We are currently waiting for them to make a move… our move will involve a court. As WH residents have been left out of this whole RDP suburb plan and planning.”

Joubert said that the municipality was now calling the proposals “a 5 year plan” looked “like they are delaying due to our resistance to the proposed development.

“We will probably see them in court in 5 years’ time.”

Everyone opposed to the development

Joubert said that he had not met a home owner to date that is not opposed to the development.

“I have not met one person in WH not opposed to this project as all who live there will lose money on property. How would you feel if you lost R400 000?

“Not too happy I suppose. And that is just from the project announcement… we were told prices will drop well below half of what homes are worth now if this development is built,” he said.

He said those that wanted to join their petition can request the form from [email protected].

“The form must be emailed to [email protected] and cced to [email protected]. Please note that one does not have to be a resident in order to be an Interested Affected Party ‘IAP’,” he explained.

A strong case

The campaign has sought the services of Burmeisters Attorney’s in preparation for a legal showdown with the municipality – that is if it will come to that.

“I believe we have strong case or I would not waste any time on the issue,” said Joubert, adding that another issue was that there is no proper infrastructure to support the increased population.

“We are talking of around 1 000+ of pedestrians if not allot more daily here and we do not have infrastructure for them… We need some serious planning and upgrades regarding paved sidewalks for pedestrians, and allot of safe pedestrian crossings - just one issue to start with.”

The residents also fear that having an RDP settlement nearby would also bring crime onto their doorsteps. They also note that the development would mean increases in road noise pollution as traffic increases (day and night); traffic congestion; disturbance of peace; violent strikes on their doorsteps and insurance price increases and severe property devaluation of the entire Walmer Heights suburb.

Joubert said the courts would need to take into account that the people currently living in Walmer Heights have made huge investments on their homes.

“[If the low-cost housing project goes ahead] we are talking here of R500+ million lost on investments. This will affect all investors very negatively if not destroy people life savings and security and retirement money, and ability to move to a new house” Joubert said.

He said the alternative to the proposed RDP development was a development that is managed like the Walmer Link “where a corporate body sees that rules are followed and population control/sub-renting of houses and a whole list of issues are addressed and controlled as they occur.

Second such objection this year

The Walmer Gqebera Housing Development is the second proposed low-cost housing development in an affluent area, which has been met with resistance from residents this year.

In August, the PE Express reported that Mount Croix residents were objecting to a development scheduled next year in the area saying this would devalue their property and increase crime.

The Mount Croix development is scheduled to start in 2015 and will be situated in lower Mount Croix in the property bordered by Turvey and Knowles Streets, situated below Erica Primary School.

At the time of publishing this article, we had not yet received comment from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Photo caption: Soon to get RDP neighbours. An apartment complex in Walmer Heights.