Earlier this year, two property development companies issued summons for almost R200m against an environmental lobby group and its chairperson, claiming compensation for delays in a large Johannesburg project.
The developers, Century Property Developments and Riversands Developments, claimed that the Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gekco) and its chairperson acted unlawfully through their ‘senseless’ and ‘frivolous’ objections and appeals against developments. The claim arose in respect of a planned development between Fourways and Diepsloot, which includes an economic hub, storage facilities and high-density accommodation. Gecko and its chairman objected to the environmental impact study of the development and then appealed a decision that dismissed their objections.
The developers’ argument is that progress has been delayed by several months because of the (alleged unlawful) conduct of Gecko, and that their claim of almost R200m consists of property rates for the vacant land while the project was stalled, a loss of rental income, legal fees and professional expenses. These losses are ascribed to Gecko’s alleged abuse of the prescribed public participation process by raising frivolous and vexatious points.
The matter is still to be adjudicated but highlights the financial risks for parties if it is shown that the public participation process for the approval of developments, has become a personal weapon in the hands of objectors and/or applicants.