Developers behind a R500 million housing project launched in Ottery last week say they will provide 1 000 affordable homes and create 2 000 construction jobs, but a civic group says the community hasn’t had enough say in the project.
Mayor Dan Plato was at the Golden Grove Estate’s sod-turning ceremony on Thursday.
The Amdec Group and DNL Properties are developing the 11-hectare site of the old Golden Grove Poultry Farm, on the corner of De Wet Road and Elm Street.
However, the Ottery Civic Association (OCA) says there has been too little public consultation on a development that could overpopulate the area and overburden roads and other infrastructure. It also says the developers aren’t doing enough to ensure locals benefit from the jobs the project will create.
The OCA said it had not been invited to the sod-turning on Thursday.
The Southern Mail asked Amdec about that, but the company did not respond.
OCA chairwoman Cherrel Jacobs said: “We were not invited to any meetings with Amdec. If they had consulted with the OCA, we would have requested the EIA (environmental impact assessment) to establish whether consideration was given to road infrastructure, transport, education and health facilities, which is a contentious subject given the lack in our area.
“We would also have advised them that we have skilled labour available in Ottery, where unemployment is quite high.”
Traffic congestion would increase, she said, as Elm Street fed Plantation Road, which linked Ottery, Lotus River, Grassy Park, Fairways, Lansdowne and Wetton and led to the congested M5.
“How will the community benefit from this project? The OCA has started a skills audit in the area, and Amdec are importing their labour force when we have so many qualified construction workers in Ottery such as plumbers, electricians, builders etc.”
Amdec Group CEO James Wilson said road and services upgrades around the development would be done “in collaboration with the local authority”.
Asked whether Amdec would consider using local labour, Mr Wilson said: “Yes, we always endeavour to use local artisans and local labour. Creating local employment is a key component of our company philosophy.”
However, he would not commit to saying what percentage of jobs would go to locals.
The development was very well located in an established suburb and close to shops, schools, sports facilities and transport hubs, and it would deliver “exceptional safety and security, convenience, amenity, and energy efficiency, significantly enhancing the lives of those who live there”, he said.
It would include a shopping centre; laundry; communal gardens; a children’s playground; creche, daycare and after-care facilities; a furniture workshop where residents could build their own flat-pack furniture; five-a-side soccer pitches and basketball courts; and communal recreational clubhouse.
However, Ms Jacobs said more primary and high schools should be accommodated as well.
“We only have two primary schools in Ottery and no secondary schools beside private schools, such as The Oracle Academy and Crystal House, which will not be enough to accommodate 1 000 families.
“Why should our children travel to high schools outside their area? We are aware that this is a private development, approved by the City, but have to question whether people residing in Ottery will be afforded preference once the units are completed. Will the mayor and his councillors assist the process, I wonder?”
Mr Plato said he was pleased to see the private sector “playing their part” and developing “attractive affordable housing sites” along with “attractive recreational spaces”.
He added: “I look forward to seeing the first of the 1 000 families move into their new homes in the near future.”
The development’s 1 000 rental flats include 24m² one-bedroom units, 36m² two-bedroom units and 54m² three bedroom units in two-, three- and four-storey “walk-up” blocks.
According to Mr Wilson, the flats are targeted at households with an employment history and a joint monthly income of R22 000 or less.
“The rental cost will not exceed 30% of the tenant’s household income,” he said.
Mr Wilson said the project was privately funded by the Amdec Group.
“We have an established affordable housing division who build, own, operate and manage all of our affordable housing stock in perpetuity to ensure it is available to disadvantaged groups in perpetuity.”
The entire development is expected to take about two years to complete with phaseone homes available within a year.
“We recognise that we cannot resolve all of our country’s economic inequalities, but we can work alongside local government and support their key strategic objectives, by introducing affordable housing developments and innovative self-build solutions to a market that is woefully under-supplied,” he said.
Ward councillor William Akim said he had not been officially notified about the housing project and had first read about it in the newspapers.
“It would be recommended to at least use 5% of local community labour,” he said.
Sub-council manager Fred Monk said companies notified the City when they wanted to rezone land for development and the City then advertised the proposal for public participation and sent registered letters to affected residents.
“I think the community should approach them (Amdec) to offer their labour,” he said.