It was just a proposal and not an order, Sakaja backs down on high-rise buildings

An aerial view of some of the high-rise buildings with Eastleigh. [Courtesy]

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja now says the idea to allow multi-storey buildings within the county was only a proposal and not a directive.

Sakaja on Saturday said he only proposed so that more stakeholders would meet at the table for more deliberations.

The governor's sentiments came just hours after President William Ruto directed that his administration moves swiftly to ensure developers adhere to height standards, especially on facilities marked as national security.

Ruto while Speaking during the Kenya Air Force 60th Anniversary at Moi Airbase in Eastleigh said developers within Eastleigh, Nairobi, and its environs must ensure buildings maintain height standards as agreed upon by the Kenya Air Force and the Kenya Defence Forces.

This he said will play a key role in ensuring that the Moi Airbase does not lose its premium position to buildings that pose a security threat.

The head of state said he was in discussions with the Nairobi county government to ensure the developers adhere to regulations.

“My government is committed to making sure that this facility does not lose its premium status. In discussions with the county government regarding all buildings that have been built beyond heights that are provided for within the law, we will work to make sure that all developers keep to the standards that we have agreed upon by the Kenya Airforce and the Kenya Defence Forces,” said Ruto.

And in response to the president’s sentiments, Sakaja said no developer had been allowed to construct above what is stipulated in the law.

“It was just a proposal and not a directive so that we come to the table and agree. Neither I nor the president has the power to issue such directives allowing for the construction of a multi-storey building, it is a process that has to go through the right approvals,” said Sakaja.

The governor said City Hall has a building committee that involves representatives from the civil aviation authority who in collaboration with the Kenya Defence Forces advise on the nature of developments that should be erected near national security installations like the barracks and airports.

“No one has been allowed to go beyond  the set height standards but unfortunately, some developers have gone against these laws and action will be taken against them,” he said.

According to Sakaja, City Hall has established that there is one of the buildings within the Eastleigh area which although under construction is blocking the running way to the airbase.

“We are definitely going to take action against the developer of the property. We are going to serve a notice and file charges for violating the rules because we believe they must be held to account for putting such a national facility at risk,” said sakaja.

In April this year, Sakaja announced that City Hall had scraped height restrictions to pave the way for taller buildings in some areas.

Sakaja said he had consulted the president on the removal of height limitations, especially around airports and barracks.

“I am happy the height restriction has been removed. We are going to go up to 25 floors with the houses we are building," he said.

And last month, in support of Sakaja, Ruto gave property developers in the area the go-ahead to construct high-rise buildings to meet the growing demand for houses.

A general view of the Nairobi Expressway and Westlands high-rise buildings on February 14, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Ruto said that unlike to the past, when developers were subjected to height restrictions, his administration would approve the construction of upto to 30-storey buildings.

During a visit to Kiamaiko in Mathare Sub-county, he said: "I am the commander-in-chief. In Eastleigh previously, you could not build more than a 12-storey building, but I have now declared that you can build up to 25- or 30-storey buildings.”

But Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale last month directed that all individuals seeking to build on land close to military establishments to get approvals from the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).

Duale said developers should read and understand the amended Physical and Land Use Planning Act of 2019, which guides on land use that safeguards national security.

"If you are a neighbour to a military camp and want to build, that which you want to build must be approved by the CDF because our premises are security installations. Even at the Department of Defence, where we are, how high you can go must be concurrent with us," he said.