Iconic Durban airport faces closure as city looks to develop site

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Virginia Airport in Durban North faces closure after the city started issuing eviction notices to tenants.
Virginia Airport in Durban North faces closure after the city started issuing eviction notices to tenants.
Image: Umhlanga Tourism

The DA has stepped into the fray as controversy brews over notices served on aviation operators by the eThekwini municipality to vacate Durban’s Virginia Airport.

Some tenants at the airport in Durban North received letters on Monday in which the municipality’s legal department said lease agreements had lapsed in 2012 and they had been paying “occupational damages”.

The airport was opened in 1959 and was home to the Durban Airshow which was cancelled a few years ago due to safety concerns.

According to Umhlanga Tourism, the airport has a 930m runway and caters for light aircraft.

“The municipality needs its property. Our instructions are to give you notice to vacate the municipality property on or before February 28,” reads the letter, adding that legal action would be instituted if a tenant remained in occupation after the specified date.

While neither operators nor the municipality responded to a request by TimesLIVE for comment, it is understood the city plans to repurpose the site for a mixed use development.

In March last year the municipality stated in a call for expressions of interest that development of the airport would serve to kickstart the city’s economy and relieve some of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DA’s deputy chief whip in Durban Nicole Bollman said the party was opposed to the eviction notices.

“The eThekwini municipality has made its intention clear for some time that it plans to redevelop the Virginia Airport into a mixed-use property.

“The DA has been insistent that a proper process be followed and operators be consulted on the way forward. This is why we abstained on the last item before the council on this matter. It lacked the substance and commitment we requested.

“The issuing of eviction notices has come as a surprise to the DA, just as they were to the operators receiving them. The development process, when it came into play, would have taken another 24 months to complete.

“It seems eviction notices were given to some operators who do not have current leases.”

Bollman said the airport was “a massive economic hub to the city and a Durban North institution.

“eThekwini’s economy is severely compromised and needs all the help it can get. These notices make no sense and were clearly implemented by city officials taking advantage of the vacuum of committee meetings and ordinary council administration.”

She said the DA has called for an urgent meeting with city officials.

“We will propose that a working committee be formulated which includes city representatives, councillors and other relevant stakeholders.”


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