City Hall on the spot as residents oppose new Gigiri hotel
Two upmarket Nairobi estates are up in arms against well-connected developers who are constructing multi-billion shilling properties in their neighbourhoods, contrary to construction and planning laws.
The illegal buildings include a community centre with a religious temple in Loresho and a residential hotel in Gigiri, which has faced stiff opposition from the Gigiri Village Association.
Residents say the hotel poses a security threat in the area as it is being built in breach of security regulations and requirements of controlled development in the affluent suburb that hosts the United Nations complex and several foreign embassies.
In Loresho, religious group Stanakwasi Sangh Jain Community (SSJC), comprising 350 members in Kenya, is constructing a large commercial community centre next to Loresho Primary School despite strong opposition from residents.
Peter Herman a community welfare member for Loresho residents association, who is leading the opposition, said the development posed great danger to neighbouring residential communities, including Loresho North, Loresho South, Kaumoni, Loresho Gardens, University of Nairobi houses on Kibagare Way.
Already, residents say the ongoing construction has increased noise, traffic, caused unstable water supply, and depreciation of property values.
On their part, Gigiri residents said the residential hotel posed a major security risk in the area that is populated by diplomatic missions, including the UN, American Embassy, Botswana High Commission and others, adding that traffic build up on UN Avenue will have far reaching security implications in the area.
“This proposed development will be a security risk as it will overlook the UN, American Embassy, Botswana High Commission and Moroccan Embassy. We believe it will infringe on our rights as residents to freedom of movement by causing massive traffic jams, pollution, noise and extra human traffic for a high end (Blue Zone as per Nairobi County) residential area,” said Gigiri Residents Association chairman David Awori.
The association said it had brought the matter to the attention of city authorities, but nothing had been done.
“We write you to request your office to revoke the licence for this development, which will not only be misplaced within its environment but will add to the deterioration of the estate,” the residents wrote to the Nairobi County government.
The residents have questioned the Nairobi City County’s approval of the projects, saying the developer has used friends and relatives to get through agencies such as National Environment Management Authority (Nema).
They claim the developer got approvals from Nema and Nairobi County authorities fraudulently using plot numbers that are untraceable on the deed plan for Gigiri.
Besides, the development is located on Gigiri Drive but is misrepresented as located on UN Avenue.
They now want the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to probe the matter, alleging the developer attained approvals from authorities through collusion without their participation.
But reacting to the claims, developers for the projects refuted the claims, saying approval processes for the two projects have been above board.
Businessman Praful Savla, who is the owner of the planned Gigiri residential hotel, insisted the project had complied with the environmental and security requirements of the area.
“We got the necessary approvals and everything is above board,” said Munyua Mwaura, the project architect.
Mr Mwaura accused the residents of sabotaging any new development in the area “oblivious of its growth needs.”
“They want to retain the social environment of the area whereas the market dynamics for Nairobi have changed. They are living in the past,” he said.
Mr Mwaura refuted claims that the development would be a traffic and security nightmare in the diplomatic area, saying a planned traffic survey would establish the truth.
“We plan to use UN security standards for the development,” he said while refuting claims by residents that neighbouring embassies view the development as a security threat.
In Loresho, the religious grouping Stanakvasi Jain Sangh termed rising opposition to the development of a community centre as “malicious rumours.”
It said the religious organisation had obtained all the statutory approvals as needed by the laws of Kenya, including the Nairobi County and Nema.
“Originally, we used to own our community centre on Forest Road, which was bought by a church. This facility was regularly used by schools, businesses, colleges, artistes for various programmes and not once did we receive any complaint. We now have adequate funding to put up a new centre, which will be a state of the art facility, again to be used by a much wider community with facilities that are lacking in Kenya,” said Bharat Doshi, convener of the building project.
Mr Doshi said the community centre would include gardens, function hall, meditation hall, kitchen facilities and an auditorium for performing arts.
SSJC, chaired by Deepa Doshi, applied for change of user of plots No. 9729/7, 9729/6 and 9729/2 May last year from residential to a religious temple.
Area residents, however, say that building plans obtained in November give evidence of the fact, that it is not a temple with auxiliary facilities, but a large- scale commercial community centre with an auxiliary prayer room to host a wide variety of events.