Johannesburg – It’s four floors of luxury that might be empty, but it’s still causing ructions with the neighbours.
On Wednesday, the battle between the Gupta family and irate residents of Saxonwold over an “illegally built” mansion that was allegedly devaluing the upmarket Joburg suburb raged on, with City of Joburg officials stepping in to conduct their own inspections.
Residents want the opulent property demolished, claiming it is in contravention of town planning regulations.
Joining officials during the inspection of the multimillion- rand property was a lawyer representing the Gupta family as well as urban planner Craig Pretorius, who was representing residents belonging to the Saxonwold and Parkwood Residents Association.
Residents brought an application before the council about the property.
Central to the dispute is whether the Guptas got the required municipal planning permissions for alterations to the property.
The association complained that the large four-storey building was infringing on their privacy as those in the Gupta house could see into their gardens and other sections of their homes.
The committee was told that neighbours considered the scale of the Gupta house to be inappropriate because only three storeys should be allowed on the property.
But the Guptas’ lawyer argued that the fourth storey was simply a rooftop which was occasionally used for social gatherings.
Those living near 7 Saxonwold Drive insisted the mansion was badly built and was leaking, cracking and falling apart.
They also pointed out that despite the abundance of greenery in the suburb, the Gupta mansion was completely paved and did not have a single tree on the premises.
“Nobody wants to live here. This building has other things which makes it illegal,” one of the residents told the committee.
When The Star, together with the committee and the legal representatives, entered the premises several vehicles were parked in the driveway as it appeared that there were no garages on the site.
Inside the palatial home, a large door leads to a foyer with an elevator and a spiral staircase, with various rooms filled with luxury furniture, granite tabletops, several fully stocked bars and marble tiles.
The property boasts several kitchens, some reserved for strictly vegetarian meals to be prepared.
During a tour of the premises, those in the group were reminded that they could enter only the rooms which were the source of the residents’ complaints, including the numerous kitchens.
But the balconies on each floor were the focus of their main grievance, as those standing on them could see directly into the gardens and entertainment areas of their neighbours.
One neighbour told the committee that he was obliged to put up screens over his windows to stop those in the Gupta house looking into his home.
He said he feared that those on the balcony could hear the private conversations he had with his family inside his house because it was so close to many of the rooms.
During the site inspection, the family’s lawyer suggested to the committee that the balcony could be screened or enclosed to block it off from seeing into the neighbours’ property.
Following the site inspection, the committee and the Guptas’ legal representatives took their notes to a hearing, where they were expected to make a decision on the merits of objections.
A verdict is expected soon.
The Guptas gained notoriety over their close links to the government, particularly President Jacob Zuma, and abuse thereof.