New planning laws to seek tough sentences


08-April-2013

A collapsed retaining wall after the recent heavy rains. It is important to observe building regulations as they not only seek to protect the project being undertaken, but also the environment and other people in the neighbourhood

The technical adviser for policy and law in the Ministry of Environment and Energy Juliana Legaie said this in an interview with Nation on Friday after a woman from Beau Vallon was fined R50,000 for cutting a terrace during the rainy season against planning authority regulations and failing to erect a retaining wall as she was required to do.

Supreme Court judge Duncan Gaswaga told her if she does not pay the fine she will be jailed for five months, and explained to her the current law allows the courts to jail offenders for six years and fine them R250,000.

Mr Gaswaga said it is very important to observe building regulations which not only seek to protect the project being undertaken, but also the environment and other people in the neighbourhood.
“The rules are meant to be preventive,” said the judge, citing the risk of landslides and erosion like those which hit three districts in January.

He said those convicted under the Environment Protection Act should also pay R5,000 for every day that an offence continues.
In mitigation the woman said she has an 80-year-old mother to look after.

“The law is in the process of being amended to allow courts to impose heavier sentences than those available now,” Miss Legaie told Nation after the sentence.

She said representatives of non-governmental organisations which work with the environment, planning authority members from the environment department, health services, the Public Utilities Corporation and other agencies will take part in a validation workshop scheduled to take place later this month to review the proposed law before it is sent to the National Assembly.

We are proposing R500,000 to R700,000 fines depending on what offence a person commits,” she said also referring to the recent disasters in which many of the landslides were caused by builders’ failure to observe planning rules.

Ms Legaie said the conditions that the Beau Vallon lady broke are contained in an authorisation letter normally attached to a plan upon approval.

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