Ignoring building breaches

Ndlambe’s building inspectorate seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder.

At least one of the personalities seems to be an active and vigorous enforcer of municipal building regulations, but other personalities have a laissez faire approach to contraventions, if they even get out and pay attention to what is going on at various building sites around Ndlambe.

HOME OR GARAGE? This 80m2 house, up to roof level, is one of two properties in Forest Downs that do not conform to the conditions of the title deed Picture: ROB KNOWLES

This is not a new problem, because people are always taking chances. In council or ward committee agendas going back a dozen years, the town planning department would have to deal with numerous contraventions, including unauthorised encroachment on municipal property, illegal business operations on residential properties, or building without approved plans.

The saying goes, and it was used often, that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. Thus people would knowingly break the law and then try to obtain approval in retrospect.

The most high profile case locally was that of the late professor and tax guru Matthew Lester, who built a home 8m higher than the permitted town planning regulation for Kenton-on-Sea. The municipality apparently approved the plans in contravention of their own regulations.

There were complaints of course, but as Lester was not going to be changing anything of his own volition, it took a neighbour with means, James Haslam, to fight the matter in court, first obtaining a high court order compelling the municipality to act, and then the municipality obtaining a demolition order against Lester. This took years of litigation and lots and lots of money. It went all the way to the Constitutional Court, which ruled against Lester.

One would think in the light of such things the municipality would be more vigilant about properly approved plans and any contraventions. It costs the municipality, and thus ratepayers, money too.

And indeed, the municipality does have one such inspector who seems to care enough to visit building sites. I know this because she visited my house during recent demolition and alterations done as a result of poor workmanship by the original builder. We had to motivate the reason for the demolition and alterations with a letter from the bonding bank.

So it is odd that obviously flagrant transgression of building regulations is being ignored by the municipality in Forest Downs and Emerald Heights. There are homes being built there that are half the size of their title deed restrictions, and why has it taken other property owners or builders to bring this to the municipality’s attention?

This is not a new matter – a letter was written to the municipality in October 2019, and yet they still have not responded to the issue.

– Jon Houzet

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