Kenya halts $400m Nairobi towers, arrests 10 Chinese builders over planning violation

Construction of a Nairobi headquarters for Chinese conglomerate Avic International has been halted and contractors working on the site arrested by Kenyan police.

The governor of Nairobi, Mike Sonko, announced on 16 August that police had raided the site as part of a crackdown on buildings begun without the necessary planning approvals. Altogether, 15 people were taken away, and later brought to the city’s magistrates’ court and charged with contravention of Kenya’s Physical Planning Act. All were released on payment of $1,000 bail.

A spokesperson for the governor commented: "We wish to inform the general public that we have stopped the construction of the Avic International Building along Waiyaki way. We have also arrested all the contractors on site for defying the county planning laws."

The governor also threatened to fire any bureaucrats with Nairobi County Council who had allowed the work to go ahead without carrying out the necessary safety and environmental checks.

The Avic development, designed by Gerkan, Marg and Partners of Germany and Kenyan designer Triad Architects

The $400m Avic development was to have included a 42-storey tower that – if it is ever completed – will be the tallest building in Nairobi, at 176m. As well as that building there will be a 35-storey hotel tower to be operated by Marriot and four residential towers of 23, 25, 28 and 29 storeys connected by a two-storey commercial podium.

The design is by the Beijing office of Gerkan, Marg and Partners of Hamburg and Triad Architects of Nairobi. Triad comments on its website that "Nairobi County Council and the National Environment Authority have approved the project and construction is expected to commence in November 2015 and complete in December 2019".

The prosecution came a day after 14 people were arrested over the construction of another building in central Nairobi without planning approval. According to the Kenyan media, those detained included Susan Ndung’u, the wife of the governor of Kiambu province, which neighbours Nairobi to the north.

According to African magazine Construction Review, more than 5,000 structures across the city may be demolished, including several shopping malls.

Top image: The site of the planned headquarters (via Twitter)

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