Building red flag

5 On Rathfelder in upper Constantia.

The developers of 45 On Rathfelder have been accused of ignoring a cease-works order and doing unauthorised building on a river bed – something they deny.

Late last year, Roseanne Turner saw building taking place on three plots in her road, and she was worried about the impact on Brommersvlei River, which flows past the front of her house.

She alerted the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (CRRA).

In the months that followed, more residents voiced their concerns about plans to build six houses – advertised for between R14 million and R21 million – on the three plots.

Ms Turner said one of the houses was being built in the bed of the Brommersvlei River and water had been pumped into the street when foundations were dug.

The CRRA says it is aware of this and learnt from the City at the end of August that while building plans had been submitted they had not been approved for three of the houses – those in the riverbed.

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, confirmed that only three of the six units had been approved.

Notices to cease work and obtain approval for the other three had been issued and then handed over to the City’s legal department for further action because work had not stopped immediately as required.

However, Mr Andrews said the notice to obtain approval allowed for a two-month grace period, and that had not yet expired.

“The three units that have not yet been approved are the critical units, in terms of their proximity to the wetland area. These plans have been circulated to the relevant departments and are currently being evaluated. The relevant departments will deal with the unauthorised construction in the wetland,” he said.

The estate is being built by Latitude Developers and the Oakhurst Property Group.

Mike Fenner-Solomon, of Latitude is the project’s architect. He said land was purchased in late 2016.

He denied they were building on a river bed as the stream had been diverted many years ago and the land had been used as landfill at some stage.

“ The Brommerslvlei stream used to run down the Rathfelder greenbelt – across the lower portion of our site – then continued into the stream in the greenbelt to the east of our site,” he said.

A report by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP), which the Bulletin has seen, appears to support this assertion. It says: “There was no active wetland in this lower portion of the Rathfelder site. The reason is because the city diverted this stream – known as the Brommersvlei stream – over 20 years ago.”

Mr Fenner-Solomon said the water Ms Turner had seen would have been from the water table and not the river. He also claimed that they had stopped work on the affected area of the low-lying site, after getting the cease-works order, with the exception of digging trenches.

According to Mr Fenner-Solomon, they first submitted their plans in March this year and building started in July. The plans included a request to move a driveway to the centre of the three plots, creating a single gated entrance – in lieu of three separate driveways leading off Rathfelder Avenue.

He said no departures for heights or building lines had been needed so it had not been necessary “to advertise anything or seek any neighbours’ written consent”.

Mr Fenner-Solomon said the City had approved a by-law in July last year allowing double dwellings on single erfs across the city, including Constantia, which itself still had a zoning overlay that limited sub-divisions below a certain size.

So he and his partners had been able to create the housing estate of six houses on three erven without needing to apply to sub-divide the plots.

Byron Nichles, a director of Oakhurst Property Group, said he was not involved in the daily running of the development but believed plans were recently passed for a fourth house and that two were outstanding.

This could not be confirmed with the City at the time of going to print.

“We have done everything by the book. The plans are straightforward; we have a responsibility to the people who work for us, to the neighbours, investors and purchasers who would not want to move in and live on a building site,” Mr Nichles said.