City moves to establish student accommodation precinct

PLANS to establish a student accommodation precinct extending to a 1km radius around UKZN Howard College and 500m on either side of Varsity Drive on the Westville campus will be discussed at a public meeting on Thursday, 28 June at St Cyrpians Church, 603 Umbilo Road from 5.30pm to 7pm.

The proposed student precinct came to light last week when representatives from Zimanga Urban and Rural Development Consultants, appointed by the eThekwini Municipality to undertake the student precinct plan held meetings in the Mayville and Bulwer areas. According to Lungelo Chiliza from Mabune Consulting, the company tasked to be the social facilitators for the proposed project, preliminary studies have been undertaken covering both desktop and site visits, including land use surveys, engineering service assessment and zoning.

“The precinct plan is not aimed at changing any part of the residential areas but rather to provide a guideline for student accommodation within the identified precincts. Currently, such developments are not controlled and occur wherever in residential areas. Through the precinct plan, control measures will be put in place to guide such developments,” he said in response to queries by Berea Mail.

He said part of the phases of the project was the stakeholder engagement or public participation. Ward 33 councillor Mmabatho Tembe said Chiliza had approached her with a booklet detailing the proposal and had asked her to organise focus groups in the area to inform residents of the proposed plans.

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“I organised for a representative to speak at the Bulwer Safety and Urban Regeneration Forum meeting last week, however I didn’t feel he engaged sufficiently with the community over the matter and it wasn’t very well advertised. Many people are worried about the impacts of this proposed plan. It will affect residents, it might be in a positive way or it might be in a negative way. The project is in its initial phases and residents are strongly encouraged to attend the meeting on Thursday if they are concerned,” she said.

A second meeting was held on Thursday, 14 June in Mayville, which was well attended. At the meeting, residents raised objections that there had been no consultation in the process and questioned the impact on housing values. Michael Kahn, who had been mandated to speak to the residents, said research had shown that property prices did increase surrounding these precincts, however, it appeared that this was because developers would buy houses to develop for students. He said a house would be able to accommodate 10 rooms.

When residents questioned whether this proposal hinged on input from the community, Kahn noted that the City intended to go ahead as the issue of illegal student houses in residential areas had been identified as a problem, and the intention of the meetings was to try to reach a compromise where possible.

When Berea Mail approached the university for comment on the student accommodation precinct project, UKZN said it was not aware of the proposed plans.


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