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Why residents rejected Njonjo’s Sh1bn shopping centre in posh estate

Residents of the upmarket Runda Estate are headed to court to oppose plans to build a Sh1 billion shopping centre by a company associated with former attorney- general Charles Njonjo.

This follows the dismissal of an appeal by the National Environment Tribunal in which residents of the posh neighbourhood had objected to the construction of the low-density commercial estate in the area.

Officials of the Runda Association (RA) on Monday said they would move to the High Court to oppose the hotel’s construction.

“We intend to go court, our lawyers who have been on the case have instructions to do so,” said Peter Mwangi, chairman of the Runda Association.

Grenadier, through its subsidiary Grove Limited, plans to build a hotel, an office block and a shopping centre in Runda targeting business tourists and diplomats.

NO COMMENT

Mr Njonjo and billionaire businessman Baloobhai Patel who are shareholders of Grenadier Limited were not available for comment. Mr Patel was said to be out of the country.

The Runda residents had sought a hearing at the tribunal in March last year challenging a National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) licence given to Grove Limited to develop the seven-acre plot.

But in a decision on May 9 that offered relief to the Njonjo group, the tribunal unanimously dismissed Runda residents’ appeal and affirmed NEMA’s decision to approve the project after conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The Tribunal’s decision paves the way for commencement of the project that comprises a 200-bed hotel, a retail centre and office blocks.

400-DAYS DELAY

The project has been delayed for over 400 days pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

“We will seek recourse against the ruling by the tribunal,” said the Karura Member of County Assembly Kamau Thuo in a separate interview.

Among their grievances was that part of the land on which Grove plans to build the hotel is public, and that there was no evidence of public participation.

The residents had also claimed that that there was a river or stream flowing through the property and that there was breach of title conditions relating to use.

The resident’s lobby had also claimed that the land was in an ecologically sensitive area which comprises a swamp and floods during the rainy season; and that the project area is a source of water to residents of the sprawling Githogoro informal settlement.

SECURITY ISSUE

“The nature of construction such as The Grove will generate upwards of 400 weekly casual workers with about 50 daily for the duration of the construction.  The workers are difficult to trace, raising a big issue on security,” the Association had said in an earlier petition to the Nairobi County Government.

Mr Patel is the chairman of Grenadier Ltd, the holding company of Sankara Hotel Group, while Mr Njonjo chairs the Sankara Hotel Group, in which the two are said to hold significant stakes.

Sankara Nairobi is a five-star luxury hotel that opened its doors in Westlands in 2010.

In its ruling tribunal chairperson Jane Dwasi and members Francis Situma and Maureen Mathenge, threw out the resident’s appeal affirming NEMA’s decision to issue EIA licenses to the Grove.

The Association had claimed there was no adequate public participation prior for the project.

The Tribunal ruled however that there was adequate consultation at various levels between The Grove and the residents and that claims to the contrary were baseless.

The Tribunal also concluded the site was not a protected wetland nor a source of water for residents of Githogoro Slum as claimed by the association.

Grenadier Ltd is a private investment company with interests in hospitality management, real estate and lottery.