City fails to draw a line under Crayon Pre-school

MBOMBELA – The City of Mbombela Local Municipality (CMLM) has failed for months now to adhere to its own by-laws.

Lowvelder previously reported Helen van Niekerk’s battle with the Mbombela Municipal Tribunal over her proposed preschool.

Crayon Pre-school was approved in principle by the municipality in July. However, neighbours in Giraffe and Arend streets opposed it.

Helen van Niekerk explained that the neighbours’ concerns were addressed but they still refused consent or even to meet and so the municipal tribunal needed to adjudicate the matter.

Van Niekerk said she has never received anything in writing. She was verbally assured that the Mpumalanga Planning Tribunal would sit in October, then November and in the first week of December, to determine whether her school may open or not.

Each time the meeting was postponed, without a reason given other than that the tribunal members were not available. At the beginning of December it was postponed indefinitely.

This is despite the tribunal chairman, Dumisani Mabuza, telephonically telling her that Crayon Pre-school was a “top priority”.

One of the neighbours’ objections was that traffic would be adversely impacted by the school. Endecon conducted the traffic-impact assessment in August. It found that it would have “minimal impact on the surrounding road network”.

It added that an existing operational concern existed in Van Wijk Street and a mini roundabout and traffic calming measures should be considered, but these were existing and not a result of the planned preschool.

 

In March the MPT continued to drag its feet.

 

Van Niekerk’s town planner, Heila Meintjes, explained that their applications were advertised on July 21, and the objection or comment period lapsed on August 21.

These land use applications were submitted in terms of the Mbombela spatial planning and land use management (Spluma) by-law of 2015, in which the procedures, responsibilities and time frames are set out of all parties involved in an application process.

In terms of Spluma, the Mbombela Planning Tribunal must decide on the application within 120 days of the closing date of the submission of comments or objections.

The tribunal hearing took place on February 1. In an attempt to have the matter resolved, Meintjes wrote to council on March 21 – almost 60 days after the prescribed 120 days of evaluation.

“It is with great despair and concern that to date, we have not received an outcome to the above-mentioned hearing. Neither do we have an indication as to when the members will be able to evaluate these applications,” she wrote.

Meintjes said, at the time of going to press, she had received no response in writing.

Van Niekerk has been left hanging, unable to open the school she has planned for seven years.

“The City has by-laws which prescribe time frames,” she said. “We as the applicants are expected to adhere to them, but so are those evaluating it. They have not done this, so they are acting outside their own by-laws.”

Van Niekerk indicated that she had lodged an official complaint with the office of the municipal manager, Neil Diamond, as prescribed in the by-law. He had not responded to her complaint as of going to press.

Spokesman for CMLM, Joseph Ngala, did not respond to the newspaper’s repeated requests for comment.

  AUTHOR
Mireille de Villiers
Journalist

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