Durban film studio project to start this year

Durban - Thirteen years after movie maker Anant Singh struck a deal with the municipality to buy land for a Durban film studio, the project is finally going to take shape.

“The first spade will be on the site before the end of the year,” Singh said on Tuesday before jetting off to the Cannes Film Festival. “We are finally moving ahead,” he added.

Singh, through his company Rinaldo Investments (Pty) Ltd, the property arm of his Videovision film production company, plans to build his Durban Film City on the old Natal Command site, which had previously housed the headquarters of Natal Command for the SANDF, and also included some municipal land.

The council acquired the SANDF portion in 1855 and transferred it to the central government in 1937 for military purposes, on condition that if it was no longer needed for defence reasons, it would revert to the municipality.

When Singh learnt that the SANDF planned to relocate the Natal Command facility to the Bluff, he approached the council to buy the site for a movie studio, which the city had envisaged in its integrated development plan to boost economic development.

Seeing the public would be allowed to tour the studios, the project would boost tourism to the beachfront site.

The deal, for R15 million, was approved by the council and supported by the provincial government.

But an objector threw a spanner in the works, which put the the development on hold for 10 years. The lengthy legal battle ended in the Constitutional Court, which found in Singh’s favour, clearing the way for the project to get going.

Two years ago, Singh found out that the portion of land in question had not been transferred from the Public Works Department to the municipality, resulting in another setback for the development.

“Public Works has signed off the transfer,” Singh said yesterday. “There is a process to follow... but the first spade should be on the site before the end of the year,” he said.

Singh’s partner, director Sudhir Pragjee, said earlier that about 13 plots of land had to be consolidated.

A special committee had been set up to work on the master plan for the development and the first meeting with the city team had already been held.

The city had already appointed a “point man” with whom Singh and his team would liaise.

Although the initial plans will have changed because of the passage of time, the development will include a hotel because that is one of the requirements of the city.

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